Discover more from Scraps
Spiced Parsnip Croutons, Lemongrass Salt
An issue specifically about bits and pieces
Not a lot has changed in the last month — there are still soups being made most weeks, and in the evenings a simple chicken stir fry with a bowl of fluffy rice is enough to keep me going. But Scraps has always been rooted in using as much of a thing as possible, and you can read that as being thrifty for thrifty’s sake (#costoflivingcrisis etc) but you can also see it as a kind of culinary trick, too.
In my experience, when you incorporate an ingredient in two or more ways into a dish, you bring that flavour out in different ways, ways that compliment each other really nicely. You can crisp up bacon to use in a salad, but keep the bacon fat and use it to form the base of a salad dressing, too. Red peppers from a jar, roasted in a hot oven, are really good stirred through pasta, but trickle some of the preserved brine in at the very end to add an extra level of complexity to the dish. If you’re roasting chicken thighs, chop up the crispy skin and garnish it over a bowl of steamed green beans for crunch. Basically, nine times out of ten, while you’re making something, you can use any scraps back in the dish. That’s what this issue of Scraps is about.
Spiced parsnip “croutons”
This isn’t a new idea, if you’ve been with us for a while — I did spiced potato skins a few months ago and this is a similar notion using parsnip skins. Since I first wrote about the transformative power of roasting your veg peels, I’ve been experimenting with different kinds, and the results have been… mixed (sweet potato are too gritty, but butternut squash skins take on an almost candied texture that I’d recommend).
Last month I was making a spiced parsnip soup using a masala blend I was given by a PR I know who works with Dishoom. The blend smelled incredible, and I wanted to marry the sweet, almost custardy parsnips with some intense, dry heat to use as the flavour base for a thick and creamy soup.
The soup followed some basic principles you will likely be familiar with by now: first, I’d made a veg stock using some scraps in the freezer (roasted, then simmered on a rolling boil for a couple of hours, before being strained and refrigerated). Next, the parsnips are peeled and rubbed with marsala blend before being shoved in the oven for 45 minutes or so. Once they’re fragrant and have the texture of a roast potato, you can take them out.
Just the most sensational Christmas song.
Making the soup requires a cup of freezer soffritto, softened and cooked down in olive oil and a slick of butter. Next you add the roasted parsnip, then the stock, and bring it to the boil before simmering it. Once it’s smelling good, you can either leave it as it is or blend it.
The real star of this soup is the spicy parsnip peel croutons. Unlike with the potato skins, I wanted these nice and skinny, so I carefully julienned them with a sharp knife, before rubbing with more marsala, oil, and flaky salt. You could use a different spice mix, or just include salt and pepper, but I think the spice will behave differently clinging to a crispy, crackling nest of parsnip peel than it will in the simmering vat of soup. The fine peels go on a tray and in a hot oven for 10 minutes or so — watch they don’t burn. When they’re done, make sure to tip them onto some kitchen roll, as the air circulating under them will help them to crisp up.
I put this on Instagram and got so many nice comments from people. And my rule is if 20 to 30 people get in touch to say something you sincerely threw together on a whim looks amazing, then it’s probably best to share it with your newsletter subscribers.
Leftover lemongrass salt
Not a recipe per se, but a useful trick. Whenever I get lemongrass stalks I discard the tough outer layers — they are dry and woody but still have a strong smell. Even chopped fine they can be a bit chewy so, about a month or so ago (it’s always ‘a month or so ago’ with me isn’t it?) I decided to try putting them to good use.
You can boil lemongrass stalks in equal parts sugar and water for a lemongrass syrup, which you can use in gin sours, or any cocktail making (it would be great in a frozen margarita, too) but I just don’t plan on drinking many lemongrass cocktails at this time of the year. So instead, I bashed the outer layers and put them in a jar with some table salt for a couple of weeks to infuse.
It’s important to discard the lemongrass after a couple of weeks, and what you’re left with is a powerfully fragrant way of seasoning soups, stews, or stir fries.
I tried taking a photo but it just looked like a mound of wet cocaine. Lemongrass salt looks the same as regular salt, basically. You could use fancy Maldon (which thanks to the shape and texture is typically used as a finishing salt) but I wanted this to be a flavour I could add into every step of the cooking process. Last night when making pork larb, I sprinkled the salt over the pork to impart some of that sweet and almost floral flavour into the meat as it browned.
One More Thing: Mustard Edition (TM)
In keeping with the spirit of this week’s edition, I wanted to share this quick way to use up the schmears of mustard you might find in the jar. I was making the New York Times' recipe for chicken breasts with lemon, white wine, and herbs — one of the easiest and most delicious things I’ve ever cooked btw — and decided to do a tray of roasted cubed potatoes as well as a bunch of sautéed greens.
The chicken is marinated, then cooked, in a sauce made of olive oil, white wine, sliced lemon, black pepper, garlic, and herbs (I often use dried herbs but went for fresh sage this time). I also added in a lick of mustard — very French.
As the greens sauteed in a little bit of garlic, I poured a little boiling water in the mustard jar, screwed the lid on, and gave it a good shake, loosening the leftovers and producing a thick mustardy sauce. It went in the pan and cooked down, coating the greens.
NEXT TIME ON SCRAPS:
We’re doing a gift guide. Out next week!