Imagine my surprise when I happily traipsed the ‘pink’ one off for her trial ballet session, (blue one tagging reluctantly behind) only to discover that the ‘blue’ one is the dance fanatic and the one mustard keen to point his toes! It was only slightly embarrassing, he only mildly outstayed his welcome with the teachers. I totally failed to extract him after the first trial as he insisted on staying for the next lesson as well. Who would have thought my testosterone charged toddler would happily endure, actually, actively participate in 90 minutes of ballet. I suppose you can’t blame him, only chap in the class, surrounded by lots of charming, pretty ballerinas, decked out in full regalia, tutus et all! So no guess’ what I am up to this afternoon, off to the ballet shop to get the kit!
The culinary world is full of surprises and I was reminded of this only last week when I recalled cooking a rather interesting so-called ‘soup’, inspired by a brilliant blog I have followed for years, called ‘Cannelle et Vanille’. The blog is a gem, beautiful photos, fabulous recipes, wonderfully inspiring. If you have a gluten intolerance, this is the blog for you, as most of the baking recipes use every weird and wonderful alternative to conventional flour; teff flour, hazel meal, rice flour, and many, many others. All of the recipes I have tried are exceptional, particularly the savoury ones. I made this ‘soup’ when it was originally posted a few years back and suddenly remembered it last week. I wanted something to follow some rice paper rolls and this proved to be a good choice. It worked just as I had hoped. Everything kind of ‘danced’ together, an ideal kitchen supper, different, clean, healthy, but not ‘knock your socks off’ spicy.
The original recipe is archived as a soup but I would argue it really is a meal in itself. It is an unusual marriage, who would think of putting, parsnip, fennel and leek with coconut milk? But it works. It does need good seasoning, a healthy pinch of Maldon salt and some good ground black pepper, I also added a couple of tablespoons of Thai fish sauce and a few pea shoots on top. Arguably you could add some fresh ginger, and chilli which would lead you down the curry route, personally I think its appeal is in its simplicity and unique delicate flavors. It’s other major selling point is how quickly you can rustle it up, and I mean that in the context of not redecorating your kitchen in the process. Rarely can you knock something really good up in 15 minutes, but this surprisingly fits into that category. Clearly you can keep it as a soup, and how wonderful to be served this for lunch, or you can bulk it out, as I did, alongside some spicy soba noodles, da da, a main course!
I think this recipe is quite a find, perfect for this time of year, making good use of seasonal produce, but refreshingly different with the use of coconut milk, hinting of Asia and warmer climes. Do try it, it is rather addictive and a cracker to have in your repertoire particularly if you are short on time. Lastly, if none of the above appeals, do look at ‘Cannelle et Vanille’, it is a feast for the eyes, really beautiful photos and fabulous recipes.
Salmon, Fennel, Parsnip and Coconut Soup – Originally inspired by ‘Cannelle et Vanille’
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 leek, washed and sliced finely
1 clove garlic crushed
1/2 fennel bulb, diced
2 parsnips peeled and diced
1 cup vegetable stock
1 cup coconut milk
A good pinch of Maldon salt
A really good grind of black pepper
8 oz salmon, cut into bitesize pieces
2 tablespoons of Thai Fish sauce
Fresh Pea Shoots (optional) to serve on top and pink peppercorns to garnish
1. Heat the olive oil in a medium size pan that will be able to hold all of the ingredients. Add the leek, garlic, fennel and cook until just tender, about 8 minutes. Do not brown the vegetables. Now add the parsnip, stock and coconut milk and cook the parsnip for about 15 minutes till just tender.
2. You can prepare all the above in advance and then just leave the saucepan covered (off the heat) until you are ready to eat. 10 minutes before you want to eat, reheat the sauce pan so the liquid is just about to boil, turn the temperature down, add the salmon and cook until it turns light pink, about 3/4 minutes. Add the thai fish sauce, salt and pepper and serve immediately in warm bowls either as a soup or on top of some soba noodles. Decorate with a few crushed pink peppercorns.
And finally if I have persuaded you to cook this, take note, the salmon needs very little time to cook. It will carry on cooking once you serve up so do go easy on it.