At this time of year there are a few vegetables left standing in the Kitchen Garden that have braved the winter; brussels sprouts and parsnips being amongst them. Parsnips actually taste sweeter after the first frosts but given our waterlogged winter we haven't seen much ice so far. Before sugar cane became Britain's source of sugar the parsnip was used to sweeten jams and cakes in the Middle Ages. I've read that the Ancient Romans enjoyed eating parsnips in honey and that the Emperor Tiberius had part of the tribute payable to Rome by Germany in the form of parsnips. Nowadays parsnips don't feature much in modern Italian cooking but they are fed to pigs that are bred to make Parma ham!
I have a lovely recipe for Cream of Parsnip Soup that is a great winter warmer. You can spice it up with a sprinkling of Feta cheese, crispy bacon pieces or with croutons tossed in chilli oil.
Cream of Parsnip Soup
4 medium potatoes, cubed
1 onion, sliced
1 litre chicken stock
1 bay leaf
100ml single cream
salt and white pepper to taste
Melt the butter in a saucepan and add the onions. When they are lightly browned, add the potatoes and parsnips. Sauté for about 5 minutes. Add the bay leaf. Cover the vegetables with chicken broth and simmer over low heat about 30 minutes. Remove the bay leaf and take the pan off the heat. Purée the mixture with a blender. Add the cream and stir until blended into the soup. Serve hot.
A fruity white wine will echo the sweetness in the parsnips but you will also need one that will cope with the cream in the soup. A Bordeaux Blanc with a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon grapes would be a good choice. Chateau Les Eymeries is made with a 50 / 50 blend of these grapes and has very good balance. It's well crafted and very moreish in its own right with crisp, fresh flavours of sweet melon, pink grapefruit and apple with a subtle hint of pineapple and honey.