It seems I have a habit of making an end-of-winter-soup every spring. We’re already eating fresh asparagus and rhubarb. The fruit trees are blooming and the sun is shining (we won’t mention the mosquitoes that are plaguing us fiercely this year!) and the grass is green.
But we’re eating roasted root vegetable soup.
A few days ago I looked at the sad and wrinkled winter vegetables lurking at the back of the crisper drawer in the fridge, and decided it was time for them to go. Last year’s version was rustic and hearty. This year’s version is a bit more elegant and refined. It’s smooth, creamy and rich – without a hint of cream or butter, and no connection to the dried and wrinkled parsnips, hairy carrots and mold-spotted red peppers that were transformed in the process. I wanted to lick the bowl – in a not so elegant and refined manner, but restrained myself to mopping it clean with a piece of bread.
The vegetables looked so sad, I forgot to take a ‘before’ picture of them. After a good trimming and washing, they weren’t quite so pathetic looking, and after a vigourous roasting, they looked downright handsome. Roasting vegetables is magic – the sugars caramelize and the flavour becomes so much fuller and richer than if they are boiled or steamed. It is what makes the difference in this soup.
And once the veggies took a spin in the blender and got dressed up with a few more ingredients – the transformation was complete. They were company-ready.
I found enough ratty old vegetables to make a double batch of this soup, and that was lucky because it tasted even better the next day. If you don’t have the ratty old vegetables . . . go ahead and be classy – make it with crisp, plump fresh veggies. Your soup will lack the backstory, but you’ll be licking your lips anyway.
Kitchen Frau Note: The flavours of this soup get brightened up by a hit of sherry vinegar and maple syrup added at the end of cooking. If you don’t have sherry vinegar, substitute it with red or white wine vinegar, and if you don’t have maple syrup, use honey.
Roasted Root Vegetable Soup
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 lb (450gms) mixed, trimmed vegetables (1 or 2 parsnips, 3 or 4 carrots, 1 red, yellow or orange pepper)
- 1 onion
- 3 cloves garlic
- 4 cups (1 litre) chicken stock (I used Better Than Bouillon paste + water)
- pinch cayenne pepper
- salt to taste
- 1 teaspoon sherry vinegar
- 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup *(optional – depending on the sweetness of the veggies)
- drizzle of your best olive oil or flavoured olive oil (I had mushroom and sage olive oil – truffle oil would be good, too)
- grinding of fresh black pepper
Preheat oven to 400°F.
After peeling and trimming the vegetables, cut them into bite-sized chunks (carrots about 1 inch/2cm). Peel the onion and cut it into large chunks. Peel the garlic cloves and toss them with the onion and vegetables in a large roasting pan with the olive oil.
Roast the vegetables in the preheated oven for 45 to 60 minutes, stirring halfway through, until the carrots are soft when pricked with a fork, and the edges of some of the vegetables are starting to turn dark brown and crisp.
Tip the vegetables into the blender and use a rubber spatula to scrape in all the flavourful roasted olive oil.
Add half the chicken stock and process until creamy and smooth. Add a bit more chicken stock if the mixture is too thick to blend well. Blend it in batches if your blender is small. Pour the puree into a saucepan and add the rest of the chicken stock. (You can use the remaining chicken stock to swish out the blender before you add it to the pot.)
Alternately, you can just tip the vegetables and roasting oil into a sauce pan, add the chicken stock and puree it all with an immersion blender.
Add the pinch of cayenne pepper and taste the soup. Add more salt if it needs it. Add the sherry vinegar and taste the soup again. If your vegetables were sweet to start with, the soup may be perfect as is. If you think it needs a bit more sweetness to balance out the vinegar, add the maple syrup, then heat the soup just ’til it comes to a boil.
Ladle into bowls and add a swirl of the good olive oil and a grinding of pepper to each bowl.
Makes about 5½ cups (1.3l) serving 4
*I found that with my old, wrinkled vegetables, I needed the tablespoon of maple syrup. When I make it with nice plump fresh vegetables, I don’t need the extra sweetness.
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