You might not know this, but there are a few spaces in the Royal Parks that are dedicated to food growing, and where all manners of fruit and vegetables are thriving - from apples, to potatoes and indeed parsnips.
I am the lucky person managing two of these spaces in Kensington Gardens and Regent’s Park. I work with volunteers to plan the gardens, grow the food, welcome visitors and schools, hold open days and much more.
Park visitor Tim O’Leary popped in Kensington Gardens Allotment mid March while we were harvesting parsnips. The volunteers had taken the parsnips they wanted and we had a few left, so I offered a couple of roots to Tim, who was delighted to be able to taste some ‘royal’ parsnip.
He promised to come back to tell me how it was. And indeed, the following week, Tim was back and very enthusiastic. He had turned our parsnip into a delicious sounding soup and he agreed to share the recipe.
So here it is, Tim’s parsnip soup (which works just as well with non-Royal Parks grown parsnips).
Royal Parsnip Soup
by Tim O’Leary
Whatever we might think about spring being delayed by the winter winds we experienced this March, for humble parsnips the cold was concentrating sugars in their cells to very good effect.
In the best English tradition, I fell into conversation about the weather with Julie, the manager of the Kensington Gardens Allotment who kindly offered me a couple of parsnips surplus to requirements.
This is the recipe for the soup I made for my family to defy the persisting cold. It serves 4-6 people and is gluten and dairy free (and vegetarian without chicken stock):
- 800g parsnips (roughly chopped, any fibrous core removed)
- cold pressed Rapeseed oil
- 1 large onion roughly chopped
- 3 garlic cloves roughly chopped
- 1 red chilli (de-seeded)
- 2 tbsp fresh ginger
- 2 tbsp fresh horseradish
- 1 bunch fresh parsley roughly chopped
- 1 litre chicken/game stock
- sea salt and fresh-ground peppercorns
for the garnish
- very fine slices of 2 cooked beetroot
- leaves of fresh wild garlic (or coriander)
Heat the oil. Add the onion and fry slowly for about ten minutes till soft, then add then add garlic, ginger, horseradish and chilli and cook for another 3-4 minutes.
Add chopped parsnips and stir well into cooked ingredients. Add chicken/veg stock and parsley then simmer for 30 minutes.
Let it rest for 5-10mins before blitzing with a hand blender. Balance the seasoning and return to a gentle simmer before serving with a garnish of wild garlic/coriander and fine shreds of beetroot.