Wednesday, January 9, 2008

09.01.08: Curried Parsnip

Cheap wine can turn out to be a false economy. I only paid £2.50 for this bottle of Spanish red - 'a rich, rich blend of Bobal - a traditional Spanish grape and the well-loved Shiraz' - and didn't even finish it last night, but woke up this morning with the blues around my bed and a buzzing in my head. Oh yeah.

So, I started late and opted for a straightforward recipe, indeed a contemporary classic. In East Street, I purchased about 4kg parsnips, plus carrots and onions to go with the head of celery I already had to make a mirepoix, spending a grand total of £5.50. I then nipped across the road to Somerfield to stock up on tea bags and suchlike and picked up three of their baguettes to go with the soup.

At the checkout I saw Rob, a resident of the Buddhist Centre on Manor Place, who was also stocking up on tea bags and suchlike, as well as a large quantity of fruit. Not only is he a committed Buddhist, Rob's also possibly the only policeman to pound the Peckham beat in possession of a philosophy degree. New Year's Eve, he told me, he'd been working. On the stroke of midnight, he was in the casualty department of King's College Hospital holding the hand of a bloke who'd been bottled. Bloodied and shocked as he was, the geezer still wished Rob a happy new one. Happier.

I made the soup in the usual way: by sweating a mirepoix of chopped onions, celery and carrots in a little oil in the bottom of the soup pot with the lid on; adding a dessert spoon and a half of 'medium' curry powder, plus one of garam masala and another of turmeric. I peeled and roughly diced all the parsnips, adding each to the pot as it was chopped, stirring the contents and moistening with a little bouillon from a litre jug, to prevent sticking. When all the chopped 'snips were in the pot, I poured over a further four litres of Marigold bouillon, brought the soup to the boil, and simmered for twenty minutes before blending with Brenda. I added a further litre of stock (making six in total) and finished the soup by grating in about 50g of creamed coconut to tone down the curry flavour and give a creamier mouth feel.

This to me is a classic, basic Soup Kitchen recipe: mirepoix flavour base + main vegetable ingredient + Marigold bouillon + creamed coconut. However, I felt there was something missing from this particular soup that makes me reluctant to nominate it an Almost Perfect Recipe. It really did have the texture of baby food and I thought it needed some slight element of crunch. Also a green garnish, which I somehow omitted. Anyway, Kadett wrote in the log bok: 'legs were frozen and they're not anymore, so (this soup) must be good stuff'.

As it goes, several mothers with babies and toddlers enjoyed the soup today, including little Irene, with her big blue eyes and high beam smile, who was the last customer today and made the numbers up to 23.

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