I always prepare a starter for our Christmas day meal. I ring the changes each year. We had the good old retro classic prawn cocktail last year, pate with chutney the year before and this Christmas we are having everyone's favorite, soup.
I always choose something that I can make ahead of time, so with the prawn cocktail it is quick to assemble in the morning and keep chilled in the fridge.
Pate can be made a couple of days before or bought, there are loads of gorgeous ones in the shops to choose from. With the soup this year I made it last week and it is happy chilling in the freezer ready to defrost and reheat on the day.
The soup I made this year is very seasonal, it is parsnip soup. I know not everyone is a big fan of this sweet root vegetable but take it from me when made into soup it is magnificent. This recipe is German, it includes both apple juice and caraway seeds, which are popular German ingredients. My festive twist with the recipe is to add a good glug of sherry, I used cream sherry to give sweetness and a depth of color.
This is how I made it. Put about 50g of butter into a large pan and melt it, then add a large, chopped onion and cook for a few minutes to soften it.
Add five large peeled and chopped parsnips (save the peelings for garnish) and one large peeled and cubed potato.
Stir the vegetables around in the butter and then add 250ml white wine and a good glug of sherry. Add 750 ml chicken stock and 150ml apple juice. Bring to the boil and then reduce to a simmer.
Add a tablespoon of Dijon mustard, a tablespoon of smoked paprika, a tablespoon of caraway seeds and a teaspoon of garlic granules or puree. Continue to simmer until the vegetables are very soft and then blitz it in a blender or use a stick blender until it is a very smooth consistency.
At this point taste and season with salt and pepper, stir through 200ml of cream and reheat. For the garnish, spread the parsnip peelings out onto a baking sheet, spray with oil and sprinkle with sea salt and bake in the oven until crispy, store in an airtight container to keep them crispy.
If you make this now and freeze it, you are one step ahead of the game! Don’t forget, the chef gets a little festive sip of something too at this time of year, perk of the job!