This has always been one of my favourite soups. It’s a recipe from Michael Smith’s Fine English Cooking, which has some excellent things in it. There is a completeness about this soup that belies its simple components – the humble turnip, onion, bread, stock and nutmeg. A bit like potage bonne femme, in fact, in that the result of mixing these things together is quite surprising. Michael Smith uses a small quantity of olive oil, presumably to stop the butter scorching. I think we can allow him that liberty. Turnips and cinnamon are good, but nutmeg is better – at least in this soup.
Melt two-thirds of the butter in a large saucepan and cook the onion in it over moderate heat until it starts to brown at the edges. Peel the green thinly from the turnips, and top and tail them. Cut into 3cm chunks and add to the onions. Stir about thoroughly, cover, and cook over low heat for about 25 minutes, until the turnips are tender.
Meanwhile cut the bread into 2cm cubes. Heat the remaining butter with the olive oil in a frying pan. A few seconds after the foam has disappeared, throw in the croutons and sauté them until well browned on all sides. Add half to the turnip pan and pour in the stock. Add the nutmeg. Simmer the soup gently for 20 minutes. Add salt and a few turns of the pepper mill. Liquidize.
Serve with a swirl of cream and the rest of the croutons floating on top.
© 2001 Stephen Bull. All rights reserved.