The phone rings just before 11 in the morning, and an old friend says she’s in town. The meeting she’s at is ending early, and she wonders if you can get together for lunch around noon. Knowing she eats at restaurants every day, you invite her to eat at your home and of course she accepts.
What’s a hostess to do in a situation like this? Let’s suppose for a moment that you don’t have a variety of soups and casseroles tucked away in the freezer for just such an occasion. You do, however, have a good supply of vegetables, and there’s homemade almond milk in the fridge.
First thing, make dessert. I suggest this raspberry chia seed pudding. You can put it together in about five minutes and tuck it away in the fridge. Set some frozen raspberries on a plate to thaw so you can mash them and stir them into the pudding a little later.
Now for a soup. What you need is a recipe that goes from conception to the plate (okay, bowl) in under an hour, with a large part of that time being free time for you to change your clothes and set the table.
This parsnip and sweet potato soup, which I made today for the first time but definitely not the last time, fits the bill.
Just peel a bag of parsnips and a sweet potato, and roughly chop an onion. There you go, the prep is done and you certainly can’t call it onerous. Get those ingredients happy in your soup pot, add stock, and let it cook. (Now’s the time to stir the raspberries into the chia pudding and spoon it into parfait glasses.) About 30 minutes later, puree the soup with your trusty immersion blender and stir in a cup of milk. I used plain homemade almond milk, and it transformed the soup into a silky, satisfying bowlful with no distracting sweetness.
The distinctive pepperiness of the parsnips was the star of this soup, with an undertone of sweet potato in both the flavour and colour. I wasn’t sure at first what herbs I would use, and hit upon dried sage and one of my favourites, dried marjoram with its bright aroma and flavour. The herbs certainly contributed to the harmony of the soup.
This is one of the easiest and fastest soups I’ve made, and the beauty of it is that your friend would never guess that you didn’t spend the whole morning making it. Its flavour is unique and the texture adds elegance to a simple lunch. Just add some artisanal crackers and perhaps a quick salad, and your friend will enjoy a better-than-restaurant meal with the added benefit of no distractions from your company. The stuff of which good surprise visits are made!
Creamy Parsnip & Sweet Potato Soup
This soup can be on the table in less than an hour (more like 45 minutes), during which time you’ll have 30 minutes to tidy the kitchen and get yourself spruced up for company. My market sells parsnips in one-pound bags, which makes it a snap to get the quantity right.
- 1 lb parsnips, peeled, trimmed and cut into small chunks
- 1/2 lb sweet potato, peeled and cut into small chunks (about one medium)
- 1 large yellow onion, roughly chopped
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp dried chopped sage
- 1 tsp dried marjoram
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
- 5 cups vegetable stock
- 1 cup plain almond milk (you could use dairy as well)
Heat the oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the onion, and let it cook for a few minutes, stirring to ensure the onion doesn’t brown (but hey, a few caramelized bits add character). Add the parsnips, sweet potato, herbs, salt and pepper and stir well. Pour in the vegetable stock. Cover the pot and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down and let the soup simmer for 25 to 30 minutes (until the parsnips and sweet potato are soft).
Turn off the heat, and puree the soup thoroughly with an immersion blender. Taste, and adjust the salt and pepper if necessary. Stir in the almond milk, and your soup is ready to serve.