I had half forgotten about this soup. I do this kind of things all the time. I have a leaky memory, to say the least – this is why this blog is a life saver for me, at least for recipes. I’ve always wanted to keep a diary of the books I read, the movies I watch, sometimes even the people I meet. I forget who the killer is five minutes after the end of a thriller. I forget reading books altogether: I’ve often found myself reading half of a book, and at chapter twelve realizing that yes, I have indeed already read the whole thing. I just keep little drops of memory with me from books and movies – the colour of a dress, the face of a beautiful actress, a particularly funny character. I forget people I meet, I forget technical details of vital importance. I am always embarrassed when people ask me what my favourite book or film is – if I’m lucky I remember the title, but don’t expect anything more than the knowledge that yes, I enjoyed that book immensely. This is why I have to be extra organised. I keep logs. I have lists.
I have a good memory for other random things. I remember number sequences really easily. I used to remember loads of poetry when I was in school, and I still do know some by heart. I remember where I’ve parked my car and where shops are and German grammar. Weird.
You see, the things I remember are not necessarily the ones I loved the most. Which is just the case with the soup: I found a portion of it in the freezer the other day, and I could not believe I had forgotten about it. Luckily I have found my notes on the recipe somewhere. It started from a visual fascination, and I remember that quite well. We visited the Eden Project a while ago. An abandoned china clay pit in the middle of Cornwall, destined to be one of those ugly holes in the countryside, has been turned into a small Eden, hosting a glasshouse containing the largest captivity rainforest in the world, and much more than this. Apart from some corporate family-fun offering, I found this to be an interesting spot, with a beautiful garden and some thought-provoking reflections on how we want our planet to be in the future. It is incredible how secluded it feels from the outside world. Inside I was fascinated by the open, clean kitchen, where you get to observe people cooking. Two women were rolling aubergines around some filling, thousands of grilled slices of aubergines. Butternut squashes were halved and filled with herbs. Fish stews were bubbling on an open fire. A boy was cutting carrots and parsnips and putting them on large trays for roasting, with a slow, relaxed pace. I guess they would have made soup out of it.
So when I came home, I cut some carrots and parsnips in the same fashion. I added a half-forgotten beetroot, a leek and a bit of thyme. I also threw in a head of garlic, and roasted until everything was soft, browned and caramelized. I squeezed and blended everything together, with some hazelnut butter. What came out was a rich, sweet, nutty soup to keep you going for days in winter, with a bold rust colour that makes me happy. Garlic adds a vital kick and savoury note to it. I like to eat it with something acid – sour cream is my favourite, but also a squeeze of lemon works.
Root vegetables soup
2-3 medium parsnips
2-3 medium carrots
5 sprigs of thyme
1 small head of garlic, whole
water or vegetable stock
1 tablespoon hazelnut butter
Preheat the oven to 220 Celsius. Wash parsnip, beetroot, leeks and carrots very well and cut into 1-2 cm thick slices. No need to peel or be fussy about the size. Toss with olive oil, salt pepper and a few springs of thyme on a roasting tray, then put into the oven. Chop the top off the garlic head so you see some of the cloves meat, wrap it in foil and add it to the roasting tray as well. The garlic will take about 15-20 minutes to be soft, smelly and ready, the other vegetables will take about 40 minutes in total. Toss occasionally. When the vegetables are soft, put them on a large pot, cover with stock or water and bring to the boil. Add a few more thyme leaves and a tablespoon of hazelnut butter, then blend everything with a hand blender. Squeeze the roasted garlic into the soup (I found the most efficient way is really to just squeeze the whole head using your hands) and give it another blend. Reheat, taste and adjust seasoning: salt, pepper and more hazelnut butter if you like. Serve hot with a tablespoon of sour cream, yogurt and/or a squeeze of lemon.