Soup makes me a happy girl. I write this as I sit outside on our patio with the sun shining high in the sky. It is a gorgeous day, but there is a change in the air and a new tint to the light. Autumn is arriving in all of its glory and all I can think about is all the fabulous soups I will be preparing during the next few months. Now, before you start thinking, “she must be pure mad”, hear me out. Soup is good for the soul. And, Irish soup in particular makes for good measure.

There is a wildly popular book series in America entitled “Chicken Soup for the Soul”. They are books filled with heartwarming, inspirational personal stories submitted by people from around the world. When the author was deciding on the title for the first book, he kept thinking about how his grandmother’s chicken soup always made him feel good and he remembered how she told him it could cure anything. He wanted his books to have the same healing powers as that soup, but not for the body—for the soul.

This same “soup for the soul” theory made it’s way into a conversation over dinner with a group of Irish girlfriends in a Dublin restaurant one evening. It had been lashing rain for about three weeks straight and I had enough of it. I asked the girls, “How do you do it? Have you ever thought of moving away because of the horrendous weather?” The response was a resounding, NO. Then, one girl in particular told me that she actually loves the rain and cold. Seriously, she used the word LOVE with extreme emphasis. I could not believe my ears. She went on to say that the rain is very comforting to her and it makes her feel secure. She then elaborated by telling me childhood stories of endless rainy days and being all warm and cosy in her home with her family sitting around a turf fire and sipping hot vegetable soup together. She even went out on a limb and said that the rain created a sort of “blanket of love” for them. While it didn’t change my attitude toward all the rainy gray days here, I thought it was a very beautiful and positive way to look at it. Her memories were just the type of narrative that could be included in any “Chicken Soup for the Soul” book.  Needless to say, when the server came round’ to take our order, we had all decided on the parsnip and apple soup to start.

So here we go, soup season is about to begin and it is one of my absolute favourite things about Ireland. Far different than our thin, brothy based soups in America, most Irish soups are velvety, creamy goodness. Simple, but brimming with flavour and nutrients: leek and potato, farmhouse vegetable, wild mushroom, seafood chowder… even nettle soup is delicious. Long ago the Irish cleverly figured out that if you simply sauté any vegetable or protein, boil it in a nice stock, puree and add a touch of cream, you’ve created a masterpiece. While I will always love a good Matzo ball soup from a NY deli, a crock of spicy Cincinnati-style chili or my own grandmother’s homemade chicken noodle soup–Irish soups and chowders have completely won me over.

Body and soul.

Curried Parsnip and Apple Soup

2 Tbsp Butter

1 lb/500 g Parsnips, thinly sliced

1 lb/500 g Apples (green Bramley or Granny Smith) peeled, cored and thinly sliced

1 onion, minced

1 tbsp curry powder

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp ground coriander

1 clove garlic, crushed

4 cups/1 litre chicken stock

salt and pepper

1/2 cup heavy cream (optional)

2 tsp chopped fresh chives

Melt butter over medium heat in a large pot, then add parsnips, apple and onion and cook, stirring frequently, until they soften but don’t brown, 4-5 minutes. Add the curry powder, cumin, coriander and garlic. Stir well and cook for about 1 minute more.

Reduce the heat to low. Add chicken stock, stir well, cover the pot and simmer for about 30 minutes or until parsnips and apples are very soft. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Remove soup from the heat and allow to cool slightly. Working in batches, puree in a food processor or blender. Return to pot and whisk in cream. Serve garnished with chives. (this soup is also very good served cold)

Slan Abhaile,

Imen

As published in Irish Country Living 9.9.10

Photo by Imen McDonnell, assisted by Master Geoffrey McDonnell

Recipe from “The Country Cooking of Ireland” by Colman Andrews

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7 Responses to “Irish Soup For The Soul”

  1. love soups. Especially taking all my leftovers and making a delicious concoction out of all my leftovers. Always a hit!

  2. Sandy says:

    I have just discovered your blog and am greatly enjoying it. I am from New Jersey – and have traveled to Ireland 3 times, soon will be 4 times, this coming May. The soups in the Pubs are wonderful, we soon discovered. Wonderful breads and soup is what I so look forward to! I am going to make your soup tonight! Love this blog.

  3. Wendy says:

    You are so right Imen, I think it is part of our heritage now, my grandmother ‘Little Mama’ made the most comforting soups for us as children, then my Mam would have a ‘dinner in a bowl’ when we arrived in from school on those cold dark winter evenings, and now it is the ONLY way I can get my 10 yr old to daughter to eat veg!! 🙂

  4. TheGlutton says:

    Love this post. And I too love nothing better than a dark rainy day when I am cooking in the kitchen and can hear the patter of rain against the steamed-up window pane. I love autumn and winter and all the lovely soups and stews to come. So comforting. Looking forward to seeing your recipes.

  5. Aine says:

    Mmmmm…vegetable soup in Ireland is the best! I try to recreate it at home, but it never quite measures up. I suspect the absence of brown bread has something to do with it! Will you post recipes? I would love to try your version…
    Thanks, Imen!

  6. Krista says:

    Love this post, Imen. 🙂 I dated a man from Ireland for a while and although I loved it, I wondered how he could handle the almost constant rain. We laughed because he wondered how I could handle so much sun and heat! 🙂 I remember one night it was LASHING rain and he made us Irish Fish Stew. It did make the rain seem cozy and comforting instead of dark and depressing. Your soup looks lovely. 🙂

  7. Clare says:

    I remember that conversation well! I thought that Irish girl was out of her mind at first but I could see her point after she elaborated a bit more. Blanket of love…that still makes me laugh out loud!!

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