One of the reasons I think I love Christmas so much is the word association that goes with it. When you take all the lovely gift giving, feasting, love-sharing, celebration and party going of the season (in no particular order, of course) out of the equation, you’re still left with a rather lovely collection of things. If Christmas were a moodboard, (and in my house, it actually is) then the colours are rich, ripe and plush, the mood is homely, warm and intimate, the imagery meaningful and inclusive, and the words, well, the words are so evocative: joy, jingle, jolly, jaunt. Nevermind the alliteration, they’re happy words, warm words, comforting words, and that’s what I love about it all. It’s the comfort and familiarity that it provides. Although it’s a bit early for any real Christmas inspired recipes (bar the cake) I don’t think it’s too early in the year for a little comfort, and as many will attest, what’s more reassuring than a bowl of rich soup?
I love the combination of flavours and textures: rich chicken stock (although you could easily use vegetable), mellow spices, smooth and soothing parsnips and a gentle kick of spice. This really is the thing to eat on a cold evening after a long day and I heartily recommend it to provide a little comfort and joy if you are feeling the need. Curl up, tuck in and feel warm inside.
SPICED PARSNIP SOUP
1 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion
1 clove of garlic
½ tsp cumin seeds
½ tsp caraway seeds
1 tsp garam masala
¼ tsp chilli flakes
½ inch piece of root ginger
850ml/1½ pints vegetable or chicken stock
200ml oat cream
Begin by peeling and finely chopping the onion and garlic. Trim the ends from the parsnips; peel and chop into 1cm chunks. Pour the oil into a large, heavy based frying pan, stir in the caraway and cumin seeds and heat until just beginning to pop – you will be able to smell their heady fragrance. Grate in the fresh ginger and then add the chilli, garam masala and a good pinch of sea salt. Stir in the onion and garlic and cook over a low heat until the onions are soft and translucent – approximately 10 minutes.
Add the parsnips to the pan and stir through so that they become coated in spice. Pour over the stock and bring to a gentle simmer. Cover and leave to simmer for 30 minutes or until the parsnips are very tender. Use a hand held blender or food processor to blitz the soup until smooth. Pour in the oat cream and stir through, season to taste and then serve while hot.