- Food & Drink
Is there anything kale can't improve?
It’s the sixth day of Christmas and all across the country millions of people are standing in front of their fridge and asking themselves the same question: “How long can we keep eating this food before we poison ourselves?”
Because there is nothing more festive than spending the last few days of the year dicing with death in the form of leftovers. The baleful turkey carcass sits there, becoming drier and stringier, but it cannot be chucked out.
Even when it’s fridge chilled flesh is so desiccated that no amount of Christmas Chutney can make it edible, the turkey can be deployed in all sorts of soups, stews and curries. And if you don’t eat them all in one go, you can reheat the leftovers of the leftovers, thereby really upping your chances of spending New Year’s Eve retching into a toilet (which you might do anyway, if you decide to seriously go at the Baileys and sherry).
We had roast beef, which means there wasn’t quite so much dead animal to deal with on Boxing Day because beef is a) smaller and b) nicer than turkey. So we managed to mop it up with sandwiches and one experimental salad.
But there is cheese. Lots and lots of cheese. In fact, I bought so much cheese I actually started to use it up before Christmas, having shrewdly guessed that no one could cope with the level of nightmare that eating that much cheese would cause. I also had too many parsnips. Although this is more to do with my oven being small, so I couldn’t roast as many parsnips as I would’ve liked to. I could eat roast parsnips till my jaw drops off.
The result of these tiny food mountains (food foothills) is soup, which is any right thinking cook’s answer to excess vegetables, and a rough sort of British pesto that you mustn’t tell the Italians about because it will upset them. The pesto will go with any simple vegetable soup, especially root veg, or with pasta – scoopy shells or bows to catch the cheese as it melts.
Parsnip Soup with Kale & Stilton Pesto
4-5 parsnips (around 500g)
1 litre chicken or vegetable stock
A handful of kale
A small handful of shelled walnuts
A chunk of Stilton
Peel and finely chop the onion. Warm a splash of oil in a pan and add the onion. Season with salt and pepper (use white pepper if you want to be a snowy white soup purist). Cover the onion with a sheet of greaseproof paper torn into a cartouche and the pan lid. Keep the heat very low and sweat for 5 mins while you chop the parsnips.
Trim, peel and finely chop the parsnips. Stir them into the onions. Put the paper back over the veg. Bung the lid back on. Sweat the veg for another 10-15 mins till they’re soft but not coloured. Stir them every so often.
Heat the stock till it’s boiling. Add to the veg. Bring the whole lot to the boil. Turn the heat down a little. Simmer for 5-10 mins to make sure the parsnips are totally soft. Either ladle the soup into a blender and blend until smooth, or use a hand-held blender to make a smooth soup. If it’s too thick, add hot water till you have a nice consistency about as thick as double cream.
While the soup is cooking, make the pesto. Start with a handful of kale – around 3-4 leaves. Rinse them and pull the soft leaves off the hard cores. Finely slice the kale leaves. Pop them in a heatproof bowl. Pour in enough boiling water to cover the kale. Leave it for 10 mins to soak, then drain and pat dry.
Take a handful of walnuts (around 10-15 walnut halves) and stick them in a dry frying pan. Toast over a medium heat, shaking the pan every so often, till they smell nutty. Tip them into a pestle and mortar and roughly crush them.
Add the dry, drained kale to the walnuts and with a chunk of Stilton and a drizzle of olive oil. Crush and stir the pesto to make a very rough paste (this is not going to be a smooth pesto, but the more you work it, the less chunky it’ll be). Taste and add more Stilton if you think it needs it – start with slightly less Stilton than you think you need and carry on till it’s as cheesy as you like / you’ve used up all the leftover Stilton.
Taste the soup and adjust the seasoning (bear in mind you’re about to chuck in a load of salty pesto). Ladle into warm bowls and top with spoonfuls of the pesto – the Stilton will melt as you stir it into the hot soup. You’ll probably end up with too much pesto (leftover leftovers) and it’ll keep in the fridge for a day or two. Mush it onto leftover crackers with slices of pear and eat just before bed.