Al Dente: Man vs Klingon Parsnip

Let’s talk about soup, baby, as Salt’n’Pepa never, ever, ONCE sung. Soup is weird, not just because of the way the word sounds but because it’s very much the card trick of cooking for me. Some context; I was a teenage magician, which is, I know, the worst ‘50s exploitation teen movie never written.




…Actually I’d watch that.

Anyway, the guy who taught me magic was a profoundly lovely man called Mike Clague who was endlessly fast talking, very funny and quickly recognized in me a fellow smartarse. I ended up scripting my last couple of shows with them, and still carry a lot of what Mike taught me in my world view. In particular, he based magic on three basic principles;


-Make sure the trick is loaded, prepped and if possible, basically done by the time you walk on stage. Then all you need is to remember the patter.

-Never, EVER say the word normal. Because if you describe something as ‘This perfectly normal handerchief’ or ‘This perfectly normal cabinet with holes in it, within which I shall shortly stab a beautiful woman repeatedly and remove her torso, and you will APPLAUD ME OR I WILL DO IT TO YOU TOO.’ Not only triggers the audience that something’s a bit weird, and they should maybe leave, but it also sounds stupid.

-Never ever do a card trick. There are 51 ways it can go wrong and exactly one way it can go right.


He’s right too, I only ever did one card trick and it was pre-loaded before I ever stepped on stage. Too many variables, too much chance for it to go wrong, and soup’s just the same, albeit replacing the whole ‘card’ and ‘trick’ elements of the equation with ‘vegetables’, ‘stock’ and ‘tofu’ with the end result hopefully being ‘deliciousness.’


Wait, what, tofu? Why yes, tofu.

And squash. You mean….

Yes. Yes I do. My old nemesis (Well the other half of him, but still) and I meet again. But will Squash, parsnip and tofu soup be my last bow or his Reichenbach?! Just with SOUP?! VICTOR! PHOTOGRAPHIC EVIDENCE IF YOU PLEASE!

So what do we have here then?



-The bottom half of Doombringer the Unboilable



Here’s what I did with them. Firstly, the parsnips were peeled with prideful persipicacity…or something involving fewer Ps. As a rule I don’t tend to peel vegetables unless I have to but in this case I didn’t really fancy trying to blend vegetable skin with the remote control plane murderer of recent entries. So, they were peeled whilst Doombringer over there? He got chopped in two and roughly sectioned from there on down.

One thing you do have to do with Squashes, aside from hate and respect them, just a little, as we do all worthy opponents, is remove the spidery goop from the bulb. This is where the seeds and the cellulose around them is situated and it tastes lousy, so scoop that out.



This is Marguerite’s oil aerosol. It’s brilliant because it not only lets you control the amount of oil, and is very shiny, but it ensures you get  a uniform coating which helps everything cook faster. Plus you prime it by pumping the top in a manner which makes my inner 15 year old giggle. Plus it’s REALLY shiny.


So, with the partially suggestive mister…ahem…primed, I sprayed the tray and then laid out the vegetables on top:



And put them in the oven at about 200 degrees Celsius for 40 minutes.  Just before you pull it out, mix a cup of boiling water with some chicken stock and empty half the tofu into your bowl.



It looks like Feta that failed its final exam, and has all of the structure but none of the structural strength. It’s cold, it’s lumpy, it’s runny.  It isn’t good. Stick with it, trust me and prepare for BLENDINATION!

Because the Squash? Is DONE.

Seriously, once it comes out? Go and do some form of triumphant dance and then peel the skin off. I didn’t do this before because, well, I don’t have a welding torch, chisel and swarthy band of Canadian mounties. Normally I wouldn’t do it at all but this was always going to be a bit of a hard blending job and I thought I’d minimize the impact a little.

Little did I know…

Add the chicken stock to the Tofu, get more worried about the Tofu and then pour the chopped roast vegetables in there. Then? UNLEASH HELL. This will take a while. Let it. This will make noise. Let it. You will sound like an entire swarm of tiny radio controlled planes are throwing themselves into the bowl. Let them. You will notice that it’s taking a while. LET IT. You’ll get a bit bored. ACCEPT IT.

You’ll notice a single piece of parsnip that will not die.



This Klingon parsnip was sitting under the blender for minutes. Nothing. Not even a scratch. I made have heard bubbling parsnip laughter. Unable to destroy him, I took a moment to admire his resolve. He was a vegetable samurai, a vitamin-enriched warrior. He deserved more than simple dissolution into soup. He deserved glory.

Turns out there was a lot of glory in the bin, which was fortunate.

Finally, blend it some more and you’re good to go. The soup is thick, creamy because of the tofu and slightly spicy because of the parsnips. And no playing cards were involved! Hurray! Soup: Achieved!

What I Learned

-Olive oil misters are both slightly innuendo-laden and very useful.

-Cooking techniques take slightly longer than I want them to, and I need to accept that.

-Squash dies a proud warrior’s death but it can be beaten.

-Tofu works surprisingly well in soup.


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