PEAR AND PARSNIP SOUP
SERVES: 4, or 6 as a starter
4 large ripe pears; 4 small to medium parsnips; 2 tbsp butter or olive oil; 1 litre vegetable or chicken stock, preferably home-made; salt and pepper, to taste (see note); 4 tbsp thick cream (optional); 60g blue vein cheese (optional); 1 cup croutons, to serve; 2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley, to serve
NOTE: If you use bought stock, taste before adding any seasoning. Commercial stock is often high in salt – try to avoid the small tubs of concentrated stock.
Peel pears and parsnips and cut into large chunks.
Heat butter or oil gently in a large saucepan and add pears and parsnips. Reduce heat and saute for 15 minutes until golden brown and fragrant.
Add stock and bring to the boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer for 15–20 minutes.
Puree batches in a blender or food processor until smooth. Return to saucepan and reheat. Season to taste. Pour into bowls and stir in a dollop of cream, if desired, or crumble blue cheese into the centre of the bowls.
Serve immediately sprinkled with croutons and chopped parsley, or with chunks of good crusty sourdough or ciabatta on the side.