Friday, 4 December 2015

Green Velvet

Vellutata di Cavolo Verde & Pastinaca con Pancetta Croccante & Semi di Finocchio
Velvety Kale & Parsnip Soup with Crispy Bacon & Fennel Seed

Soup is always a good thing in the Winter- but it can also be a great thing if you use a little imagination! Using a few simple, fresh ingredients and combining the flavors well... that is all that it takes! And you can make any number of variations of deliciousness from even the most humble of vegetables.

Case in point- the remainder of the kale that was there, sitting in my fridge and challenging me to DO SOMETHING with it! And so, I added a couple of parsnips to give some good, savory flavor, bacon to take it over the edge and the basic, classic vegetable base to give substance- and this lovely, emerald, velvety creation was put together in just 30 minutes! Which made the whole thing even better still!

Add a single potato and you have an instant thickening agent, carrot, celery and onion and you have the classic foundation of almost every Italian soup... and by adding the crispy bacon bits, toasted fennel seed and the parsnip chips at the end, the added texture and flavor make this otherwise simple leafy green soup into a real treat! And yes- that fennel seed make the greens easier to digest as well as tasting fantastic!

I managed to get 3 good bowls of soup from just 2 parsnips, 1 carrot, 1 onion, 1 stalk of celery, 1 small potato, 1 handful of finely chopped bacon and 1 small head of kale. The only seasoning I needed was salt, pepper and about 1 teaspoon of fennel seed and the only other flavor I added came from the olive oil... but then again- that is already a lot of flavors right there in those ingredients!

A food mixer, blender or immersion blender and some raw olive oil at the end transform these lovely vegetables into a velvety-smooth pureed soup in next to no time and with no effort at all- and just look at that color! What's not to love about every aspect of this dish?!?!

I say- let's get cooking!

Start off by cutting yourself a few paper-thin slices from one of the parsnips, to fry with the bacon later on, but otherwise by coarsely chopping the vegetables and sautéing them together with a little olive oil, just until the onion becomes translucent.

No need to fuss at all here- everything is going to get blended together later anyway... remember? Just cut the pieces rather small, so that they cook more quickly.

Season simply with salt and pepper , then top up with enough boiling water to cover everything, bring to the boil, reduce to a simmer and allow to boil for around 15 minutes.

Next, add the kale, removed from the toughest stalks and coarsely torn into slightly smaller pieces. pop this on top of the vegetables and broth, season with salt, push down well, return the lid and continue cooking/steaming for a further 10 minutes.

After around 25 minutes, everything should be cooked through, most of the water absorbed into the vegetables- and everything will be ready to be blended together.

Once you do blend your vegetables, you will find that there is much more liquid in them than you think and you will have a lovely, emerald green soup like this. Should it be thicker- easy- add a little water and then season accordingly. If it is just right- as this one here was, simply add a drizzle of olive oil and a last touch of pepper and give it a last whizz... and you will see how the oil help it emulsify and become smooth and dreamy! 

Set your finished soup back onto the stove top to keep it warm... and take care of that bacon and parsnip... so that you can serve it up and enjoy!

With no added fat, stir-fry the bacon, parsnip slices and fennel seed together until everything is wonderfully golden brown... and then serve them, piping hot, on top of your hot soup! 

And if this does't warm the cockles of your heart on a cold Winter night... then nothing else will either!

I preferred to not use a too-deep bowl, so that I didn't need to stir-in the bacon, fennel and parsnip, to enjoy it... this way, I was able to have a bit of each ingredient on each spoonful and enjoy each and every single flavor and texture... making it an absolute joy to eat!

See that spoon right there? That is for you... so that you can try this out for yourself! Go ahead... get into your kitchen and make this right now! You know you want to!

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