Seedlings of flat-leaf parsley, planted at the tail end of summer, have, halfway through winter, become forests. Which is a stroke of luck, really. It’s the one thing that I seem to be able to grow rather well. Other things – the pennywort I wanted so badly; the stubby bushes of rosemary that will not even try – are moving at the proverbial snail's pace, but the parsley, it is unstoppable. Lush forests of greenery that sit close to the back door so that I can slip out, feet un-shod, to grab a handful or two as needed. It’s enough to make a trainee kitchen gardener feel inordinately proud.
A mountain of parsley went into this soup, a wise attempt to harvest just a little of this year’s prolific crop. Incredibly delicious it is, though the sum of its parts may not initially suggest much. Ladled into shallow soup plates, this becomes quite sophisticated. Understatedly elegant and deeply herbal, in a deeply nourishing sort of way. Honest, restorative, iron-rich. Frugal winter food.
A soup to make you feel like a gardener, even if you’re not.
Parsley soup – feeds 2
To use anything less than a forest of parsley is to miss the point. This must be vital, green and herbal. You’ll need a whopping 300g, a generous ½ lb or so, to suffice two. Adapted from The Cranks Bible.
2 very large bunches of flat-leaf parsley
1 small onion, roughly chopped
6 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons of butter (or olive oil)
2 small potatoes
½ teaspoon of good veg stock powder (optional)
Sea salt and pepper
Best olive oil, for drizzling
1 heaped tablespoon of smoked almonds, chopped (optional)
Cut the parsley leaves from their stalks. Place the stalks in a large saucepan and cover, quite generously, with cold water. Throw in the onion and half of the garlic. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer, partially covered, for 30 minutes.
Roughly chop the parsley leaves. Scrub the potatoes and chop them into chunks.
Stew the potatoes and garlic in the butter gently, stirring from time to time, for 15 minutes. Add the parsley leaves and stir slowly through the garlicky potatoes for a minute, maybe two. You want it to collapse a little. Measure out 3½ cups of parsley stock and pour it in next. Stir, then add the stock powder. Simmer, covered, until the potatoes crush easily against the side of the pot – 10 - 15 minutes should do it. Season to taste. Cool a little before blending until velvet-smooth. Serve with a thread of good, spicy olive oil and the almonds, if you’re using them.