Not so long ago soup was what you got at the soup kitchen when you were down on your luck. Soup is what my mother advises me to eat when I happen to have a cold. Soup is what my grandparents ordered when they took us kids out to a restaurant. Last year bone broth became fashionable and it became the “it” food of the moment.
It's becoming winter, and while I find the warmth of a stove comforting as I prepare dinner, I’ve also discovered that my motivation to fire up my home stove is declining.
The best soup I've had recently was a bowl of spiced butternut squash with apple and quinoa along with some chopped kale.
The following recipe is made with parsnips and chestnuts. Of course, this recipe works just as well if you prefer foraging for your own chestnuts, but I defer to vacuum roasted and then frozen chestnuts available in select markets such as Whole Foods. If you'd like to cook your own chestnuts you can roast them, which lends more fragrance and nuttiness compared to boiling. In either case, you’ll need to cut slits on each chestnut beforehand, an absolutely essential step to cook them properly. For oven roasting, these slits serve as steam vents. If you don’t make the slits, the chestnuts can become mini bombs. Chestnuts exploding inside your oven will not make this recipe a quick clean-up job.
Parsnip and Chestnut Soup with Coconut
(recipe makes four portions)
5 oz (1 can) unsweetened coconut milk with no binders (e.g., carrageenan or xanthan, such as Thai brand)
15 chestnuts, peeled and cooked
2 parsnips, chopped into 1/4-inch cubes (no need to peel)
1 white onion, peeled and finely chopped
1-inch piece of ginger, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
2 tbsp olive oil (or coconut oil)
1 pinch cayenne
1 teaspoon sea salt, and more to taste
4 cups vegetable broth (no sodium)
2 cups water
freshly milled black pepper
- Put the coconut milk in the freezer for 10 minutes. Open the can and spoon off the creamy part. Keep that cream in the refrigerator. Reserve the coconut liquid.
- Heat the oil in a gallon-sized pot on medium heat. Add the onions, garlic, chestnuts, parsnips, salt and cayenne and cook covered with a lid for 20 minutes. Stir the mixture every 5 minutes.
- Add the reserved coconut liquid, the vegetable broth and two cups of water and bring to boil, then continue to simmer on low heat without a lid.
- Strain the mixture through a colander and reserve the liquid. Transfer the cooked vegetables into a kitchen blender and process. Slowly add the cooking liquid one cup at a time through the blender lid opening and continue to blend, making a smooth consistency. This process takes me about 5 minutes.
- Adjust seasoning with sea salt.
- Ladle the soup into four bowls. Just before serving the soup add 1/4 of the reserved, refrigerated coconut cream on top of each bowl. Garnish the soup with black pepper from the mill.
Chef’s Note: Even my kid loves this soup, especially when I sprinkle salted popcorn over the soup just before serving. Your favorite brand of crushed potato chips can fill in instead.