Parsnip and Ginger Soup

One cold winter’s day, many years ago, BD and I had lunch in a pub in Holkham Village, a tiny hamlet on the North Norfolk coast in England. The pub, or more properly, the hotel, The Victoria, was serving parsnip and ginger soup that cold December day; we had that, and a sandwich.

I don’t remember the sandwich, but the soup was unforgettable. Creamy and smooth, the nutty flavour of parsnips paired beautifully with the tang of ginger, and it was the way the ginger burst on the tastebuds after each swallow of soup that made it stand out. We were still talking about it when we got back to Canada. So I tried to recreate it.

I knew what the ingredients were: parsnips, ginger root, and cream. I didn’t know the proportions. It took three tries to get it right, and then it was the special soup I made for dinner parties for years. Until BD’s newly developed allergies meant he could no longer have cream, or milk. I simply stopped making it.

But I miss that soup. It was special; for its memories of The Victoria, for the problem-solving BD and I did together to make it, for all the dinner parties at which it was served and the pleasure of our friends on eating it. So I’m going to try again.

This is what I know. I need to use parsnips from the farmer’s market: parsnips need to be left in the ground late into the fall, or even over the winter under a bed of mulch, to develop their deepest, nutty flavour. The ginger root needs to be freshly grated. And I need a fat source: the fat in the cream is what holds the flavour of the ginger and makes it burst on the tongue. So I am going to try this: soymilk with added soybean oil, to push the fat content up to the 10% of the cream I used to use.

Here’s the approximate recipe.

1 kg (2.2 lb) parsnips, peeled and chopped.

3 -6 pieces ginger root, each about a finger’s length, peeled and chopped finely. (How many depends on how much you like ginger!)

1 L plain soymilk with 15 mL soybean oil added (1 quart/1 Tbsp), or, for the original recipe, use table cream (10% butterfat).

Cook the ginger root in water until it softens – this can be quite a long time. At the same time, boil the parsnips until they are mashable. Pour off the parsnip water (keep it) and the ginger water (keep it too).

Blend the parsnips and ginger in small amounts with soymilk; return to the pot. If the mix is too thick (likely) thin with first the reserved ginger water and then, if needed, the parsnip water.

This soup is better if made the day before, allowed to cool, and gently reheated (a slow cooker is good). It’s great as a first course, or complements strong cheeses and good breads well for a light meal.

Any suggestions to duplicate the effect of the cream will be gladly received!


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