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Eric Akis: Apples and parsnips join forces in a tasty seasonal soup

Perfect for an autumn meal, this puréed parsnip and apple soup is topped with tangy cheese and toasted walnuts.
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Comforting and perfect for the season, parsnip and apple soup is topped with tangy cheese and walnuts. ERIC AKIS

I’m blessed to have apple trees in my backyard and my wife and I share the fruit they produce with neighbours, family and friends. We also enjoy a ton of those apples ourselves, eating them out of hand, and also using them in a wide range of dishes.

With regard to the latter, we’ll use those apples in baked goods, such as pies, cakes and muffins. We will use them in savoury creations, too, such as pork medallions with sautéed apples, and Cornish hen with brandied apple sauce. And we’ll also add bits of apple to soups, such as mulligatawny, or whirl them into a puréed one as I did in today’s recipe.

With in-season B.C. grown apples being well stocked in ­grocery stores and farm ­markets right now, you don’t need to have your own apple tree to obtain some for the soup. But you will need to secure a few other ingredients, including another type of produce in-season right now, parsnips. It’s an earthy, slightly nutty, almost buttery tasting root vegetable that pairs well with the sweet/tart flavour profile many apples have.

To make that soup, the parsnips were peeled, sliced and sautéed with onions until softened. Some flour and seasonings were added, thyme, ground ginger and nutmeg, creating a roux. Stock was then mixed in, which could be chicken, vegetable or even turkey stock, if you made some of the latter with your turkey bones after Thanksgiving.

Peeled, sliced apple was then added to the soup and it was simmered until they and the parsnips were tender. You can use a wide range of red apples in the soup, such as Macintosh, Fuji, Spartan, Royal Gala or another type that appeals.

When the parsnips and apples were tender, the mixture was then pureed, creating a silky smooth, perfect for autumn soup that you adorn with a few more things once in the bowl. Those items were grated, tangy, aged Gouda cheese, crunchy toasted walnuts and, if desired, chopped parsley. Three ingredients that further enhance the taste and look of the soup that you could serve with slices of hearty whole wheat bread for lunch or dinner.

While you eat the soup, take heart in the fact that nutritious parsnips contain folic acid, potassium, fibre, vitamin C and other good things. Apples also contain fibre and vitamin C and, like parsnips, are low in calories and have no fat or cholesterol.

Parsnip and Apple Soup with Gouda and Walnuts

Perfect for an autumn meal, this puréed parsnip and apple soup is topped with tangy cheese and toasted walnuts.

Preparation time: 25 minutes

Cooking time: About 30 minutes

Makes: Four servings

3 Tbsp butter or vegetable oil

1 lb. parsnips, peeled, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced, widthwise (see Note 1)

1/2 medium onion, thinly sliced

2 Tbsp all-purpose flour

1/4 tsp dried thyme

1/8 tsp ground ginger

1/8 tsp ground nutmeg

4 cups chicken, turkey or vegetable stock, plus more, if needed (divided)

1 medium to large red apple, peeled, quartered, cored and sliced (about 1 1/2 cups)

• salt and ground white pepper, to taste

1/2 cup grated aged gouda cheese or gouda-style cheese, or to taste (see Note 2)

1/4 cup walnut pieces, toasted and coarsely chopped (see Note 3)

• chopped fresh parsley, to taste

Melt the butter or heat the oil in a medium pot set over medium heat. Add the parsnips and onion and cook until softened, about four to five minutes. Mix in the flour, thyme, ginger and nutmeg and cook one minute more.

While stirring, slowly pour in one cup of the stock. When mixture is very thick, mix in the rest of the stock. Add the apple, and then bring the soup to a gentle simmer (small bubbles should just break on the surface). Adjust the heat as needed to maintain that gentle simmer. Simmer soup until the parsnips are very tender, about 15 minutes.

Puree the soup in a food processor or blender, or in the pot with a hand (immersion) blender. Thin the soup with a bit more stock, if you find it too thick. Return the soup to a simmer, and then taste and season it with salt and pepper.

To serve, ladle the soup into bowls, top each serving with some grated cheese, walnuts and parsley, if using, and enjoy.

Note 1: One pound of parsnips sliced equals about three cups. Two to three medium to large parsnips should yield that amount.

Note 2: If you want to use a Vancouver Island made Gouda-style cheese in this recipe, Courtenay’s Natural Pasture Cheese Company makes a fantastic one called Amsterdammer. For a list of the many Vancouver Island food stores selling it, go to ­naturalpastures.com.

Note 3: To toast the walnuts, place them in a skillet and set over medium heat. Heat and stir walnuts a few minutes, until lightly toasted.

eakis@timescolonist.com

Eric Akis is the author of eight cookbooks. His columns appear in the Life section Wednesday and Sunday.