It's strange - I'll go eleven months of the year without touching a parsnip, and then as soon as December rolls around, I go mad for them. I think I always forget how much I love them. They're the perfect vegetable to eat at this time of year - hearty and comforting (perfect for winter stews), but their subtle sweetness makes them feel a bit festive too! Not much can beat the combination of this intriguing sweetness and a parsnip's earthy, root vegetable flavour. This time I put them to good use in a classic parsnip and apple soup. I didn't want the soup to be overwhelmingly sweet so I added a potato too - and that was about it. Such perfect flavour pairings don't need much else - no fancy herbs or spices, just good, simple flavours.
To start this soup off, just cook down some onions and garlic in a knob of butter and a drizzle of oil (if you're vegan you can easily skip the butter or use a vegan alternative). Once they're soft and just beginning to caramelise, you can add your potato, parsnip and apple, cover in vegetable stock, and then simply cook until the vegetables are soft. This really is easy to make, and the end result is a perfectly balanced, smooth soup. The starchy potato helps to make the soup creamy without needing to add any extra dairy - I'm certainly not opposed to having a tub of double cream in my fridge at this time of year, but that doesn't mean I'm not grateful for a lighter meal once in a while!
I made my soup super (souper?) thick because I love it that way - I find it so comforting. However if you'd like to stretch it to feed an extra person, you could water it down quite a lot without noticeably losing any flavour.
I like to serve my soups with some toppings to add a bit of variety. This time I used a few crumbles of soft goat's cheese and some chopped walnuts for a bit of crunch, as well as plenty of black pepper. I'm so glad I chose the toppings I did - the goat's cheese, especially, went perfectly with the slightly sweet soup (I was inspired by the combination of apples and goat's cheese in the dauphinoise potatoes I made last time!).
However, if you prefer, you can choose your own toppings, or just serve this soup on its own or with some fresh bread and butter.
There's nothing better than coming in from the cold outside, putting on your slippers and settling down for a hot dinner - and apple and parsnip soup is the perfect option. If you're organised, you could even make it the night before so that when you get home, it will be just minutes before you're ready to dig into to a big bowl of steaming soup.
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