Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Parsnip Soup with Mushroom Toast

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Now's mid-April, and the weather here is starting to get a tad cooler than it was in the last 3 months. Moreover, winter's coming up again in a short while, and that only means one thing for me: lots of hearty winter foods!

Admittedly, I am highly enthusisatic to begin writing about my favourite topic.. comfort foods. I know it's still a little early in the season to be talking about pasta soups, game casseroles and baked fruit, so just to ease us into the upcoming winter, here's a simple recipe that I reckon suits the current climate here in Brisbane.

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Parsnip Soup with Mushroom Toasts
for 2 hearty portions:

3 small parsnips
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 small white onion, chopped
3 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1/2 cup thick cream
salt and white pepper

2 slices of baguette, toasted
1 clove of garlic, cut in half
1 tsp of pinenuts (optional)
3 medium sized mushrooms, diced (I used field mushrooms)
1 clove of garlic, chopped
A fruity extra virgin oilive oil
Salt and coarse black pepper

Peel parsnips and cut into quarters. Remove tough inner core and discard. Dice parsnips. In a saucepan, heat enough oil to cover the base. Add garlic and onion and sweat for 2 minutes till translucent. Add parsnips to pan and saute for another 2 minutes. Now, pour in the stock and the cream and simmer for 5-10 minutes till the vegetables are very tender. Transfer to a blender and liquidise. Pour back into saucepan and season to taste. Here, you may want to strain the soup for a more refined texture, but as for me, I'd rather not do this. I find that small residual chunks of vegetables in the soup add to the rustic charm of the final dish.

Rub the warm toasts with the exposed sides of the cut garlic clove, then drizzle generously with olive oil. In a small frypan, heat just enough olive oil to coat base, and then add chopped garlic and pinenuts and fry gently till just garlic is just golden. Turn up the heat and add in the diced mushrooms. Season with a little salt and pepper and saute till mushrooms soften slightly. Spoon onto toasts.

Pour soup into bowls and top with a slice of mushroom toast. Drizzle more olive oil over the soup to make it taste more luscious.

Most people tend to overlook the quality of the olive oils they purchase. May I suggest that it is important to use olive oil of a good quality, as such simple dishes taste only as good as the ingredients that go into them. Here, I used a Cobram Estate Extra Virgin Olive Oil, which is relatively lighter in flavour and does not overpower the parsnips, and is easily available in most supermarkets.

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