Spring Warmers

Until the last week or so, it seemed that spring was not really ever going to, well spring into action. In line with this, my cooking hasn’t quite shifted out of winter gear into its lighter spring and summer guise, and I’ve been making a lot of warm filling meals designed to line the stomach and keep out the cold. It was also shaped by a couple of unexpected windfalls of bulk loads of free food.

My first windfall came in the shape of a bag of parsnips that, for reasons that were never clear to me, were being given away free in our local supermarket. (Some poor shop assistant was handing out bags of them to somewhat confused punters without explanation.) Free parsnips! But what to do with them? Parsnips aren’t something that I often cook with. I spent hours looking through recipe books and browsing the BBC food pages in search of inspiration to no avail. But finally, inspiration struck. My landlady was away for a few days and left me with free reign of her fruit-bowl to save it from going off while she was away. Said fruit-bowl contained half a dozen apples… Parsnip and apple soup was clearly the answer. I’ve not previously eaten parsnip and apple soup that I could remember but while I’m not sure it’ll steal a place in my regular rotation of winter warmer soups, I’ll definitely be making it again. It’s quite a different soup, somehow sweet and strange; it makes me think of autumn for some reason. An unexpected but welcome treat for those unseasonably chilly evenings. (Well, lunch breaks really, but who’s counting.)

My second windfall was a work colleague whose allotment saw a glut of rhubarb and brought it in to work to share. It was a bit greener than I generally like it, but not being one to turn my nose up at free fruit, I happily took it home and stewed it with some sugar and a little ground ginger. (We used to grow rhubarb in old chimney pots when I was a kid, but I’d never encountered, what appears to be a local delicacy round here, breaking off young pink shoots of rhubarb, dipping them in sugar and eating them raw.) I made little rhubarb tarts, which were lovely with custard, but also delightfully hot and filling as breakfast on days that I slept in and needed to take my breakfast into the office with me.

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