Don’t eat anything that your Grandmother wouldn’t recognise – this is the advice from the diet and nutrition books these days. While I admire the sentiment and realise fully that it is to collectively drive us away from the excessively processed foods on the shelves of our supermarkets. I also know that if my Granny Lily saw half the ingredients in the favourite soup of (her namesake) my youngest daughter, she would arch one of her beautifully pencilled eyebrows skywards.
I don’t think there was a lot of cumin, ginger or butternut squash in Carrick-on-Suir, Co Tipperary in the 40′s and 50′s. And even though she was a relatively well-travelled woman (having spent time as an noviciate in a nunnery in Versailles and travelled the length and breadth of Ireland with Duffy’s Circus in her long and eventful life) I would still have to do without a lot of my everyday ingredients if I stuck to the foods available in Ireland a mere few decades ago.
This soup comes from the sort of vegetable purees that most children are weaned on – starting with plain boiled and mashed vegetables, it grew with the children into a lightly spiced soup the whole family enjoys. I keep it nice and thick to stick to the spoon so that most of it makes it’s way into a clumsy toddlers mouth. Dunking of wholemeal bread into the soup is also encouraged. (Even though the very thought of such a breach of etiquette would have poor Granny Lily spinning in her grave)
Spiced Butternut Squash & Parsnip Soup (á la Elizabeth Pearl)
Good quality oil for sauteeing (I use Donegal Rapeseed)
Large brown onion, chopped
Half a butternut squash
2 sticks of celery
2 large parsnips peeled and chopped
1 clove of garlic, minced
Small piece of fresh ginger, grated.
1/2 red chilli
1/2 teaspoon of cumin seeds, lightly toasted
1.2 litres of veg/chicken stock (I usually have some homemade chicken stock hiding in the fridge)
Salt and pepper
A dollop of créme fraiche and chopped coriander to serve – if liked
Heat the oil in a large saucepan, sautee the onion till softened slightly over a low heat. Add the garlic, ginger, chilli and cumin and cook for a few minutes more. Add your chopped vegetables and stock. Bring to the boil, and reduce to simmer for 20 minutes. Liquidise until smooth, and check seasoning.
You can easily double the quantities of this soup as it keeps very well in the fridge as it has no dairy in it. It freezes brilliantly too and is both vegetarian and vegan friendly if you use the correct stock. The squash and the parsnips both love spices and you can increase the chilli and the cumin for older, more sophisticated palates.