Strangely, the pleasure of crisp, sweet roast parsnips is little known among the gastronomically inclined French, who consider the parsnip to be animal feed – their loss, of course. Parsnips were one of the few foodstuffs exported from Britain during Roman times. The emperor Tiberius evidently liked them but sadly only in the belief that they were some form of aphrodisiac. Presumably it was the shape and sturdiness rather than the flavour or nutritional qualities that appealed to him. No matter, they taste wonderful. Parsnip soup works well with a little dry sherry. The addition of hazelnut pesto, which I came across in an American food magazine some years ago, gives both contrast and lift to the dish.
Blend all the pesto ingredients together using a food processor, blender or pestle and mortar. Refrigerate until needed.
To make the soup, heat the butter in a heavy pot and cook the parsnips, shallots and leeks until brown.
Add the sherry and boil until it has evaporated. Stir in
Purée the soup in batches using a food processor or blender, then return it to the pot and reheat adding the cream. Taste to test the seasoning and add salt and pepper as needed.
Serve with a spoonful of the hazelnut pesto in each bowl.
© 2000 Shaun Hill. All rights reserved.