Let me tell you why parsnips remind me of old ladies.
Parsnips and I didn't know each other a few years ago. We both lived in different countries. Moved in different social circles. And preferred different weather conditions.
The first time I met Parsnip was in the vegetable aisle of a nondescript English supermarket. It looked like a carrot who had just received a shocking telegram and lost all it's colour. The bleached brother of the carrot choir.
It also looked distinctly uncomfortable, sitting there between the red peppers and the dark broccoli. And I was looking for something familiar in a new country. So, I moved on to the cauliflower. The parsnip and I parted ways that day, and our paths didn't cross again for another two years.
Then, in the autumn of 2008, Chotto-ma was born. And one cold, windy day, as I was walking around town by myself, with a 3-week old baby tied to my torso, I felt like having soup. So I walked into a cafe, on a Tuesday afternoon, and ordered Soup-of-the-Day. It was 'Spiced Parsnip'.
As I awkwardly made my way towards an empty table, one hand supporting my newborn's wobbly head, and the other hand balancing a bowl of parsnip soup, I realised that the cafe was filled with old ladies, and the occasional old gentleman. There were mops of grey hair at every table. Some were meeting friends, or catching up with family. Some were reading their newspapers. Or savouring their soups, one slow spoon at a time. Some were just catching their breaths. But they all looked happy. The sun shone on their neat white hair and carefully ironed clothes. The air was filled with their perfumes - a heady mix of musk and flowers. Their wrinkled faces smiled.
They had done their jobs, grown their children, paid their mortgage. Now, while the rest of the world was busy with chores, they were free to sit with friends, and have hot parsnip soup on a cold, windy day.
Spicy parsnip, apple & cashew soup
This is my adaptation of that soup I had three years ago. It is a beautifully warming soup, with the natural spicy, buttery flavour of parsnips, the sweetness of apples, the nutty creaminess of cashew and the heat of a chilli.
4 parsnips, peeled and diced
1 apple, peeled and cubed
1 small onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 green chilli
1 tsp garam masala
1/2 cup cashew nuts
2 cups milk
2 tbs olive oil
1 tsp aniseed
A pinch of turmeric
A pinch of paprika
1 dried red chilli (this will not add any heat if not broken, just a deep roasted flavour)
Heat 1 tbs of olive oil in a pan, add the parsnip, onion, apple, 1 tsp of the chopped garlic and saute on medium heat for 3-4 minutes. Add 1/2 cup water, cover and cook till the parsnip and apple are soft. Put the cooked mix into a blender, along with the cashew and chilli, and blend into a smooth paste.
In a small pan, heat the remaining olive oil, add the aniseed, remaining garlic and red chilli. Remove from heat when the aniseed and garlic are lightly browned, and add the turmeric and paprika. This gives the oil a beautiful colour.
Transfer the blended paste into a deep pan or wok, sprinkle with garam masala and salt, and add milk to form the consistency you want for your soup. Heat the soup and ladle into serving bowls. Now add some of the roasted garlic and aniseed olive oil to each bowl.