13 January: St Hilary, The coldest day of the year
The feast of St Hilary is traditionally supposed to be the coldest day of the year perhaps because on 13 January 1205 a very severe frost hit London, the Thames froze across, and beer and ale was sold by weight instead of volume – because it was frozen solid.
“So began a frost which continued till the two and twentieth day of March, so that the ground could not be tilled; whereof it came to pass that, in summer following a quarter of wheat was sold for a mark of silver in many places of England.”
My friends The Cook and The Poet are coming to lunch, so a hot and spicy soup for a cold and icy day seems to be called for. This is Delia’s recipe for curried parsnip and apple soup with parsnip crisps from her Winter Collection. I guess if you were a peasant in 1205, January was a pretty low time and your daily pottage would consist of root vegetables and a bit of salt bacon if you were lucky – no potatoes of course. I’m going to make a nutty bread to go with the soup.
Curried Parsnip and Apple Soup
1 tbsp groundnut oil
2 cloves garlic chopped
1.2 litres stock (I used Marigold bouillon)
1 medium Bramley apple
1 heaped tsp coriander seed
1 heaped tsp cumin seeds
6 cardamom pods – seeds only
1 heaped tsp turmeric
1 heaped tsp ground ginger
Salt and freshly milled black pepper.
Dry roast the whole spices for a couple of minutes, then grind them in a pestle and mortar. I added the ground spices as I did this.
Melt the oil and butter. Chop the onion and fry gently until soft – about 5 minutes, then add the garlic and give it another couple of minutes. Add the spices and heat for two more minutes. Peel and chop the parsnips and add to the onions. Pour in the stock and simmer very gently for 45 minutes or until very soft (Delia says an hour, it didn’t take that long). Liquidise until smooth. I added a couple of tablespoons of apple juice at this stage because I thought it was a bit too thick. Now grate the apple and put it into the soup pan, add the soup back and reheat gently for a couple of minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning.
For the parsnip crisps, I peeled a parsnip and then sliced it very thinly with my peeler. I fried the slices in hot sunflower oil until light golden and then drained the crisps on kitchen paper sprinkling with salt. They brown very quickly so watch them closely.
Enjoy. Stay warm.
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