Gorgeous Roasted Garlic Soup With Black Salsify – Or Without!

It is said that some of the best recipes are created by accident.

Mmmmm... garlic!

And besides, who doesn’t love roasted garlic?!  Ok, those who don’t love garlic, some of them may not love it even roasted – but conversely, even among those who avoid the vegetable in its pungent raw form, some still love it once it has been mellowed out by the heat of the oven.

By the way, the post today was not going to be about roasted garlic, actually.  It was going to be about the elusive and rare black salsify, aka the ‘vegetable oyster’ – considered a delicacy in many nations because of its special, reputedly oyster-like flavor.  But, not all things which are planned, come to pass as they were, and so today’s post is about roasted garlic and roasted garlic soup.  Hope you don’t mind.

A very nice soup, at that!

Black salsifyScorzonera hispanica, or as it is called in Swedish, svartrot (“black root”) is not difficult to find in Stockholm supermarkets.  It appears to mostly come from Holland and is available organic (ecological as it’s termed in Sweden) more often than not – and it tends to hide on a shelf somewhere in the veg department, in a cellophane bag.  I’ve long wondered about it, and finally, now that it’s come in season (and is thus fresh rather than aged and wrinkled), have decided to try it.

Black salsify aka Scorzonera hispanica aka svartrot

So I bought two 375g packs of it.  The part where I got two is important, but we’ll get to that in a while.  I’ve unpacked one of them for today’s lunch.  The soup I have based my soup on was a recipe from Eat Like A Girl, which I don’t blame for the result in the very least – no blame to be had, as I didn’t follow the recipe exactly, and besides, this is a truly excellent soup.  The aforementioned recipe attracted me since it uses red lentils, which are a favorite ingredient of mine.

And here we come to the crux of the matter, and that in all the tasting, and later happy eating of said soup, I couldn’t make out any oystery flavor, or any hint that I’d not, for example, used potatoes instead of the salsify.

So, since this soup doesn’t give any hints as to the oyster-vegetable mystery, the fate of the second pack of salsify thus becomes more important, as I will dig around and try another recipe for it that would perhaps clue me on to what all the oyster-flavor fuss is about.  We can hope!

But, in the meantime, forget the salsify – if you love, or even like garlic, you have got to make this soup!  With potatoes or parsnips, or indeed salsify if you have some on your hands for some reason.  Or else reserve the salsify for something where it’ll shine better, but do, do make this soup!

... and it uses up the leftover apple!

You’ve got to make it because it’s warmly aromatic, and it is mild and not at all sharp or burning the way raw garlic is, and it is really very healty and also really easy to make.  Oh, and it’s inexpensive to make (if you omit the not-so-cheap salsify and go with taters or parsnips instead).  And, also, it’s not even time-consuming, because you roast the garlic while you prep everything else.

What do you need for it: (serves 4, or 2 with leftovers to freeze)

  • ~400g black salsify (weight is unpeeled, but you want to peel it and put it in acidified water to prevent browning), or peeled parsnips, or potatoes (scrubbed, I don’t bother peeling)
  • 3 small yellow onions, peeled and chopped coarsely
  • A leftover apple of any variety.  Mine came from the old fruit tree in the neighborhood (I do so practice what I preach!) – quartered, cored and sliced into 1-cm thick pieces
  • 1 very large or 2 small garlic bulbs
  • 1-2dl cream
  • 1.5dl red lentils
  • ~1.5L of boiling water
  • 2 teaspoons of ground cumin
  • Extra-virgin olive oil (for garlic and to garnish)
  • Some tablespoons of refined cooking oil (I use rapeseed aka canola)
  • Sea salt to taste
  • Chili flakes, chopped parsley, grated hard cheese, olive oil – whatever you like to garnish with.  I am sure some bits of bacon will go just great with this too.

What to do:

(this was hard to get in order.  It’s a sort of make-it-all-at-same-time sort of prep – roast the garlic while boiling the root veg and lentils and caramelizing onions and apple – but as it’s all at the same time, it doesn’t take a whole lot of time to do it!)

  • Preheat oven to 180°C.
  • While oven is heating, cut the top off the garlic bulb as in above photo, place it in a little ovenproof dish and lightly drizzle the top with olive oil.
  • Once oven is preheated, stick the garlic dish in it, and leave for 30-40 minutes.  How fast it cooks will depend on the size of bulbs and size of cloves inside them, so check on it after about 20 min have passed.

  • Wash and scrub your root veggies.  If you are using salsify, note that it leaks tacky latex-ey juice, and will be sticky upon peeling.  So, after you have peeled it, plunge the roots into some acidified water (I used a spritz of vinegar into a bowl of water), and take them out one by one to cut up.  Then, spend a bit of time getting the sticky juice off your hands.  You may also want to cut the salsify on a piece of baking parchment over your board, to protect it (and you) from a lot of scrubbing later on.  Obviously if using potatoes and/or parsnips, just stick them into a bit of water so they don’t turn dark while you chop.
  • Once done chopping, drain the veg and place them in a pot.  Add just enough water to cover them, and about 1 teaspoon of salt, bring to medium boil, and cook the chopped root vegetables until soft.
  • Add lentils and another half-litre of water and cook until lentils are done and falling apart visibly.
  • Once garlic is ready, remove it from oven and allow it to cool a little before squeezing it into the goblet of a blender.
The cloves, once cooled a little, are really easy to squeeze out of peel
  • In the meantime, heat a non-stick frying pan and add 2-3 tbsp of cooking oil (I use refined rapeseed).  Once pan is heated, add the onions and cook on medium heat until soft and beginning to color.
  • Move aside and add the apples and cook until apples are heated through and beginning to go soft (a few minutes), then place in the goblet of the blender on top of the garlic (order matters little here, put batches in as they become ready).
  • Pour the veg and lentil mix into a bowl, add about 1/3 of it to the garlic, apple, and onion mix, top up with a bit of water, and puree until smooth.  Pour back in the pot, and repeat with the remaining root veg and lentils.
  • Place the pot of soup on low heat, and add cream and enough water to achieve the consistency you like – I did not add any at this point as I love my soups pretty thick.
  • Season with salt to taste, and mix in the 2 teaspoons of cumin, sprinkling it to avoid clumping in the thick soup.
  • Heat through and serve, with any or all of the garnishes suggested.

I went with the cheese and olive oil – and some chili flakes later on as an afterthought.  Black pepper would work equally well in my opinion.

The lentils give this a very good dose of trace minerals and fibre, making this a full-meal soup that packs a lot of satisfaction (you won’t be running for a snack anytime after a bowl of this!), and the roasted garlic smell with the warmth of cumin… yum!

As to the other pack of salsify?  Sooner or later, I’ll figure out what to do with it and whether it really tastes like oysters at all.  Naturally, I’ll keep you posted!

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7 thoughts on “Gorgeous Roasted Garlic Soup With Black Salsify – Or Without!

  1. The internet seems to vary between saying, “rumored to taste like oysters” and “has a -faint- oyster flavor”. It sounds like the latter is the answer — perhaps so faint that only the bizarrely tongued can taste it.

    I noticed in one “Mock Oyster Stew” recipe that they use kelp as an ingredient. Maybe that would help bring out the hint. I’d also wonder whether you could make an oystery dashi from it (salsify, kelp, and katsuobushi).

    1. I’m pretty taste and scent sensitive, but I agree with you that it must be faint – I didn’t even detect it before adding the garlic. I think I have a Marcus Samuelsson’s recipe for salsify soup from the Aquavit restaurant, so may try that next.

      As to oystery dashi, I have no idea, but as most vegetables lose some flavor when drying (tomatoes are an exception here), I’d not go for this as an oyster-flavor imparting tool. It just doesn’t have the bang for it. :)

      I’d just… get some oyster sauce. Or does the Chinese idea offend the Japanese-food sensibilities?

  2. You always have the most interesting facts and ingredients! I have seen those roots around the shops but have never really took an interest in them and less so now that you mentioned the sticky substance that comes out of it. I avoid dealing with ingredients like that … take fresh turmeric for example, they stain every single thing they touch! And wearing gloves doesn’t work well with me. Well, anyway, this soup looks like something I’d love with some crusty bread. I’ve always loved thick soups. And oh, the roasted garlic will never make it into the soup … I’d pop it into my mouth before that … no smooching for awhile! :D

    1. Hihihi – yeah, I had to resist really, to get any of it into the blender rather than smearing it on a handy piece of crispbread and munching with a bit of salt! But, but the soup is worth it – just make it with potatoes!

      As to interesting ingredients – I love food, and I think it is more fun to try things you haven’t yet – some may turn out to be new favorites (and have!), and others, well… Salsify, I fear, will never become a favorite ingredient – and not just because I can’t stand sticky, tacky stuff on my hands (and no, I can’t say I like gloves either). I’ve actually used household benzene and a cotton pad to get it off, would you believe it? It’s just that it seems a lot of expense and effort for something, that ultimately, tastes very little – I’ll buy topinambours (Jerusalem artichokes) for my luxury root veg any day over these!

      But, I do have another pack and I do have benzene to clean my hands, so I will attempt another recipe. After all, I paid for them, didn’t I? And I hate, hate throwing away food!

  3. I’ve just harvested my first crops of common and black salsify and now I’m looking forward to trying your recipe using both types.

    From the bits of each I’ve already sampled, it’s the common salsify that has the oyster flavour – I couldn’t taste it in the black salsify at all.

    1. Rich, hi and thanks for stopping by!

      If it’s the common salsify that has the oyster flavor, that explains why I couldn’t find any, and makes perfect sense! There’s much confusion between the two, which is why I was using the latin references!

      This particular soup is gorgeous, and I think salsify does add a certain silkiness to the lentil base, but if you want to taste it more, I’d suggest this recipe instead, and substitute peeled and boiled salsify instead of sauteed celery root, if that makes any sense?

      Please do let me know what you end up trying and how it works out!

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