Apples and Juniper Berries

This soup is a proper throwback to my Scandinavian roots.  I believe apple soup is particularly big in Norway, but the combo with juniper is very Swedish too.  Scandi cuisine often plays on sweet, sour and salty flavours and this soup does just that, with an emphasis on the sweet and sour.  The trick is to be a bit picky about the apples you decide to use.  Choose ones with a bit of teeth-sucking-oomph to them, or the soup will be too sickly sweet.

If apple soup sounds a bit strange, rest assured, the taste is not strong and apple works very well with the parsnip.  It is quite filling though,  so all you really need is a chunk of bread (preferably rye, of course) to go with it and you’ve got a complete lunch.  You could make it lighter by omitting the cream and just adding a couple of tablespoons of half fat creme fraiche instead.  This would also take it from a more autumnal soup into something a bit more summery, particularly if you replace the parsley with dill at the end (for an even more Scandi twist!). 

Apple, Parsnip and Juniper Soup

You will need:
3 quite tart apples, peeled, cored and chopped
2 large parsnips, peeled and chopped into chunks
2 celery sticks, chopped
2 shallots, chopped
1 thumb of fresh ginger, crushed
1 L chicken stock
250ml cider
250 ml single cream
1 tbsp juniper berries
4 whole cardamon pods
1 small cinnamon stick
bunch of fresh parsley or dill
olive oil
salt, pepper

Method:

1.  Ideally, you would have a scrap of muslin to hand which you could use to make a little bag for the spices for seeping in the soup.  However, if you don’t, a tea strainer works rather well I find.  Put the juniper berries, cardamon pods and cinnamon stick into the strainer.  I used a nice blue plastic one I got from my aunt for Christmas.   

2.  Heat the olive oil in a large pan and then add the chopped apple, celery, shallots and ginger.  Leave this to fry for a minute or two while you season with salt and pepper and lower the heat. 

3.  Get a sheet of baking parchment, large enough to cover the pan, and run it under the tap for a few seconds.  Squeeze out any excess water and place snugly over the ingredients in the pan (see photo above).  This will allow the fruit and veg to steam.  Cook this way for about 10 minutes.

4.  Remove the paper and add the stock, cider, spices (in the muslin or tea strainer).  Bring to a simmer and leave for about half an hour.

5.  Remove the spices and puree the soup until smooth with a stick blender or in a food processor.

6.  Bring to a simmer again and stir in the cream, if using.  Taste to season and add the chopped fresh herbs.