Tuesday, March 13, 2007



A lovely soup for gusty March days - or any time!

This is a HOT AND SPICY* (see below) soup with the strong tang of lemon, which is wonderful if you love, as we do, the tastes of Indian spices (in the garam masala and cayenne) and lemon. Both of these can be adjusted to suit tastes. It owes its existence to several sources, but it is a staple here now and keep avolving a little each time it is made.

1 medium onion, chopped
2 large parsnips, chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/2 - 1 Tbsp garam masala (to taste - try a little at a time)*
1/4 - 1/2 tsp cayenne (or to taste)*
1 rounded Tbsp wholewheat flour
4 cups vegetable stock (homemade, if you have it handy)
grated zest of one lemon
juice of one lemon (OR a little less, depending on size and juiciness of lemon - taste as you go)
freshly ground black pepper
salt? - probably not needed
Garnish: strips of lemon zest and/or chopped cilantro/coriander leaves.

* RE 'HOT AND SPICY' - NOTE ADDED TO ORIGINAL POST 18 MARCH : We like our spicy food, and by that I mean that we have eaten our way around parts of Asia and gobbled the chilies that are sliced, as if they were bell peppers, and strewn profusely on top of some of the already spiced dishes. By 'hot and spicy' I mean BEWARE. Please add your garam masala and cayenne or whatever very carefully, tasting as you go. If you use commercial garam masala mixes, some can be very hot - some less so - and in this they are not unlike commercial 'curry powders' - that is to say they are unreliable in the degree of heat (and btw flavour) you can expect from one brand or type to the next. So, I repeat, if you use these please add them a bit at a time until you get the degree of heat just right.

In a large pan, heat a very little water to cook the onions, parsnips and garlic until softish, stirring for about five minutes. Vegetables should be a little soft but not turning brown. Add the spices and stir well, sprinkle on the flour and stir very well for half a minute and then immediately add the stock, lemon juice and the zest. Taste to establish the degree of sourness you require from the lemon - you can always add more later.

Reduce heat and let simmer for 15 or 20 minutes or until the vegetables are cooked.

Take out a couple of spoonfulls of those vegetables and set aside. You will add them to the finished soup later for texture and interest. (If you prefer a pureed soup, however, you can skip this part and puree the lot. Both are good.)

Either pour the soup into a blender and puree, OR use a magic wand to puree in the pan (watch for splatters if you choose the latter method - there is no magic to avoid burns and stains.). Soup should be lovely and smooth. (As you see above, I chose not to leave chunky bits in mine this time, but to puree the lot. Equally good.)

Re-heat the soup together with those chunkier vegetables you set aside and bring the volume of soup up to 4 cups by adding a little water, if needed.

Taste again for seasoning (Okay? It should not need salt unless you used a salt-free stock)

Serve in heated bowls, add a grind of black pepper and garnish, and cut a nice thick slice of your favourite bread. The one you see here is my homemade wholewheat sourdough, but a slightly sweet quickbread works beautifully too. Very nice and comforting!

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