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Cream of Parsnip Soup with Bacon and Garlic Croutons

ingredients

1 lb 2 oz (500 g) parsnips, trimmed (peeled net weight)
2 rashers smoked streaky bacon, 3/4 in (2 cm) thick
2 oz (50 g) unsalted butter
2 shallots, peeled and finely chopped
3 1/2 fl oz (100 ml) dry or medium-dry white wine
1 1/2 pints (800 ml) chicken stock
3 egg yolks
9 fl oz (250 ml) single cream
nutmeg
salt and freshly ground white pepper

for the garlic croutons:

5 small slices white bread
2 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic
salt

method

1. Make the garlic croutons. Trim off and discard the crusts from the bread slices and cut into small squares or dice. Heat the olive oil and the peeled, whole garlic cloves in a very wide, non-stick frying pan, add the diced bread and fry over a moderate heat until crisp and golden brown all over, turning them as required. Sprinkle them with a little salt and set aside.

2. Use streaky bacon with a good proportion of lean to fat, remove the rind and excess solid fat and cut the bacon into very small dice.

3. Fry over a moderate heat in the non-stick pan without any additional oil, turning now and then, until the bacon is crisp and lightly browned; take the bacon out of the pan and blot up excess fat from the dice with kitchen paper. Set aside.

4. Dice the peeled parsnips. Heat half the butter in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan and sweat the chopped shallot and the diced parsnip in it, stirring frequently, for 10 minutes.

5. Increase the heat from low to moderate, add the wine and cook, uncovered, until it has completely evaporated.

6. Add the stock, a small pinch of salt and bring to the boil. Simmer uncovered over a moderate heat for about 15 minutes or until the parsnips are very tender.

7. Reduce the heat to low. Beat the egg yolks and cream together briefly and gradually add this mixture to the soup while beating continuously. Continue beating until the soup is very hot but do not allow it to boil or it will curdle.

8. Remove from the heat and beat with a hand-held electric beater until smooth; beat in the remaining, chilled butter a small piece at a time. Add a little more salt if necessary (not too much, as the bacon will add more), freshly grated white pepper and a little grated nutmeg.

9. Ladle into hot individual soup bowls, sprinkle the garlic croutons and crispy bacon over the surface and serve at once.

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