As summer comes to a close and autumn starts to creep in with shorter days and cooler nights, the glut of fruit and vegetables just gets better and better.
Parsnips are a wonderful vegetable. Too good to be boiled, they must be roasted (or baked in a cake) to get the best from them. I was a late arrival to the joys of parsnips. Growing up in the 1970s in an industrial north-west town, all vegetables were boiled. To death. Once a vegetable has been ruined in that way and the taste and texture have been etched onto your memory it takes a long time to fill that memory with a new one where the vegetable tastes as it should. In this case with the parsnip it tastes earthy, spicy and musty. Boiling, even lightly, brings out the worst in a parsnip and this should never happen (ditto for carrots). Roasting parsnips is the perfect start to almost any parsnip dish. Whatever you may have seen in blogs, on TV or in books and magazines DO NOT drizzle with maple syrup, agave syrup or sugar. Hells bells why would you want to make a wonderful sweet vegetable more sweet? That would be weird!
Parsnip and Walnut Soup with Walnut Pesto is easy to make but takes about an hour to make in total. Most of the time involved is roasting time.
Perfect for lunch, dinner and even fancy enough for a dinner party. Parsnip and Walnut Soup with Walnut Pesto goes great with a simple salad such as Endive Salad with Pears and Almonds.
Parsnip and Walnut Soup with Walnut Pesto is gluten-free and vegan as well as… celery free, coconut free, garlic free, lupin free, mustard free, nightshade free*, onion free, peanut free, sesame free, soya free.
Difficulty. Time to cook. Special ingredients or equipment
For nightshade free Parsnip and Walnut Soup with Walnut Pesto leave out the chilli.
You can use a food processor, jug blender or immersion blender to blend the soup. All work equally well.
Preparation time 10 minutes
Cooking time 50 minutes
Parsnip and Walnut Soup with Walnut Pesto is gluten-free and vegan as well as…
Nightshade free* (leave out the chilli)
What’s the Deal with Parsnips?
I adore soup, especially in the autumn months when seasonal produce is still so good. Parsnips make a great soup for lots of reasons; taste, texture, availability, value for money…
The parsnip plant
The parsnip (Pastinaca sativa) is a root vegetable closely related to the carrot and parsley. It is a long, tuberous root with cream-coloured skin and flesh. If left in the ground to mature with winter frosts the parsnip becomes sweeter. Parsnips can be cultivated in deep, stone-free soils. Handling the stems and foliage of the parsnip plant can cause a skin rash if the skin is exposed to sunlight after handling.
Origins and spread of parsnips
Like carrots, parsnips are native to Eurasia. It is thought that parsnips were cultivated by the Romans however, there are some difficulties in distinguishing between parsnip and carrot (which, in Roman times, were white or purple) in contemporary writing as both vegetables were called pastinaca.
The parsnip was introduced to North America and Great Britain as a root vegetable, but in the mid-19th century, it was replaced as the main source of starch by the potato and consequently was less widely cultivated. In Europe, the vegetable was used as a source of sugar before cane and beet sugars were introduced.
What do you do with parsnips?
Parsnips are usually cooked (and are extremely versatile. For example parsnips in soup, roasted, rosti and parsnip cake is delicious. Parsnips can also be eaten raw e.g. grated in salads.
Nutritional value of parsnips
Most parsnips consist of approximately 80% water, 5% sugar, 1% protein, 0.3% fat, and 5% dietary fiber. 100 grams of raw parsnip contains 75 kilo-calories. The parsnip is rich in vitamins and minerals, and is particularly rich in potassium with 375 mg per 100 g. Several of the B-group vitamins are present, but levels of vitamin C are reduced in cooking. Since most of the vitamins and minerals are found close to the skin, many will be lost unless the root is finely peeled or cooked whole. During frosty weather, part of the starch is converted to sugar and the root tastes sweeter.
What’s the Deal with Walnuts?
Walnuts are unlike any other tree nut. They have an unusual appearance (dried, wrinkled brain) and taste (sweet with a sharp alcohol edge – sometimes like the moisture is being sucked from your mouth). But don’t let my description put you off. They are amazing and versatile and walnuts work so well in partnership with a huge variety of foods from apples, to aubergines, to brocolli, to grapes, to oranges, to parsnips (of course!), to watercress and all the other fantastic pairings in between.
Origins and spread of walnuts
The walnut is the nut of the tree of the genus Juglans , of which the Persian or English walnut are most common. The English walnut (Juglans regia) originated in Persia, and the black walnut (Juglans nigra) is native to eastern North America. The black walnut has a very good flavour but due to its hard shell and difficulty in hulling the nut, it is not grown commercially. Numerous walnut cultivars have been developed commercially, which are nearly all hybrids of the English walnut. Technically a walnut is the seed of a drupe or drupaceous nut, and thus not a true botanical nut.
What do you do with walnuts?
Walnuts are versatile and can be eaten raw or cooked. They can be roasted, boiled, toasted, pickled, brined, processed for walnut butter… and so on. Walnut oil is very popular as a salad dressing but as it has a low smoke point is not good for frying or roasting.
Nutritional value of walnuts
Raw walnuts (without shells) consist of 4% water, 15% protein, 65% fat, and 14% carbohydrates, including 7% dietary fibre. In a 100 gram serving, raw walnuts provide 654 kilo-calories and rich content of several dietary minerals, particularly manganese at 163% RDA, and B vitamins. While English walnuts are the most commonly consumed, the nutrient density and profile are generally similar to those of black walnuts.
Unlike most nuts that are high in monounsaturated fatty acids, walnut oil is composed largely of polyunsaturated fatty acids (72% of total fats), particularly alpha-linolenic acid (14%) and linoleic acid (58%). Walnut oil contains oleic acid as 13% of total fats.