I spent all my childhood and into middle age convinced I hated parsnips. Those long roots, something like a creamy coloured carrot (albeit not quite the same shape), were to my mind the same as the turnips which my mother would periodically serve up as a boiled vegetable. Now she was a good cook and they were not overcooked, and served with a buttery sauce I'm sure some folk would love them. I was not one of them. I'm still not.
The other way turnips were used was as a part of the vegetables for soup along with parsnips (as I now realise these were the big coarse ones that were past other uses), carrots (ditto), celery and onions and I think this is where I got confused. These soggy white lumps would be ladled into the bowl along with the other vegetables and to me they were both the same. In view of my vehement complaints, eventually Mum would cook the parsnips and turnips in large pieces and only give them to the rest of the family. Everyone was happy.
Then I was having lunch with a friend one day and she ordered parsnip and pear soup and, for some reason, I had a taste. Oh my goodness! It was delicious. I was entranced and came home determined to work out how to make it. Wow! I got creative, fiddled with the recipe and apple and parsnip soup was born. Then I found a recipe for parsnip mash. I decided they'd probably be just as yummy roasted. They were. Nothing could stop me then and now parsnips are an important part of our winter menu, often taking the place of the ubiquitous potato. Who'd have thought it.
Here is my recipe for:
Apple and Parsnip Soup
(makes approximately 2 1/2 litres because we like it thick but you can add more stock if you like)
1 1/2 litres of vegetable stock - I make it with one of better quality stock cubes
2-3 largish parsnips, peeled and cubed
1 large onion, sliced roughly
A little butter or margarine
700-800 grams of apples in natural juice (of course, you can cook your apples from scratch if you prefer)
Parsley, chopped, optional for garnish (it also provides a nice flavour hit)
Salt and pepper
Bring the stock to the boil and cook the parsnips until just tender. Soften the onion using as little butter or margarine as possible. Add the onions and apples to the parsnip and stock mixture and heat through. Process the mixture in a blender until smooth. Adjust the seasoning if necessary and add extra boiling water if necessary to get the consistency you like. Serve topped with chopped parsley if liked - and I sometimes add a swirl of natural Greek yoghurt.
Confession: if I'm pressed for time I microwave the parsnips in some of the stock along with some dried onion flakes, then add the apple and a heaped teaspoon of butter and heat through before blending. It's still pretty good.