Belinda Jeffery

Parsnip Soup With Roasted Pecans And Persian Feta

As I write these words, the tantalising aroma of this soup is wafting out of the kitchen where I have a pan of it bubbling gently on the cooktop, and I have to say, it smells divine!

  • Serves 8.

  • Soup:

  • 60g unsalted butter
  • 2 large leeks, well washed and finely sliced
  • 1.25 kg parsnips (approx. 8 or 9), peeled and cut into 1.5cm chunks
  • 2 medium-sized potatoes, peeled and cut into 1.5cm chunks
  • 2.25 litres homemade chicken stock (see below)
  • 2-3 teaspoons sea salt flakes, or more to taste
  • 2/3 cup (170ml) cream
  • Handful of finely sliced roasted pecans, optional
  • Handful of finely sliced kalamata olives, optional
  • To serve:

  • 80g roasted pecans, thinly sliced crossways
  • a smidgen of extra virgin olive oil
  • 120g Persian feta (or soft goat’s cheese marinated in olive oil)
  • 4 or 5 kalamata olives, very finely sliced, optional
  • Freshly ground black pepper

* When I first made this soup I found I didn’t have quite enough homemade stock, so I used about 2 cups (500ml) of water to make up the difference, and it was fine. (I just thought I’d mention this, in case the same thing happens to you.)

Melt the butter in a very large saucepan over low heat. Add the leek and cook, stirring regularly, for about 8 minutes until it has softened and collapsed a bit. Now tip the parsnip and potato into the pan and swish them around in the buttery leek mixture. Cook the vegetables gently so they don’t colour, stirring now and then, for 10 minutes.

Add the chicken stock and salt to the pan. Increase the heat to high and bring the stock to the boil. As soon as it’s boiling reduce the heat to low, cover the pan with a lid, and simmer the mixture (it should bubble gently) for about 40 minutes, or until the parsnip and potato are very tender. I usually squish a few pieces of parsnip against the side of the pan with a wooden spoon to check if they are tender enough – when they are, turn off the heat.

Blend the soup until it is very smooth. (Ideally do this in the pan with a stick blender which is a lot less messy than pureeing batches of soup in a regular blender.) Stir in the cream, then taste the soup and add more salt if necessary. Mix in the pecans and olives if you’re using them. Warm the soup gently, but don’t let it boil.

To serve the soup, mix the sliced pecans with the olive oil (this gives them a lovely gloss.) Ladle the soup into bowls and scatter little pieces of feta into the middle of each bowl. Sprinkle the pecans and olive slivers over the feta, and finish off with a grinding of black pepper and a few tiny drops of olive oil.

Simple chicken stock

I don’t go to much fuss when I make chicken stock as I like a pure unadulterated chicken flavour. Basically all you need do is get some chicken carcasses from the butcher (many give them away or sell them cheaply) and put them into a very big saucepan. Add about 1 litre of cold water per carcass, making sure that they’re completely covered in water – sit a plate on top if necessary to keep them below the surface. Bring the water to the boil, then reduce the heat until the occasional lazy bubble floats to the surface, and cook the stock for a couple of hours, skimming off any froth or scum that comes to the surface. When it’s ready, strain the stock into containers, leave it to cool, then cover it tightly and keep it in the fridge if you are using it within 2 days. Otherwise it’s best to freeze it – it’ll keep well for a couple of months.