Parsnip soup with steamed clams

Clams turn this simple soup into an impressive starter.


  • 8 slices streaky bacon, roughly chopped
  • 1.5kg/3lb 4oz clams, cleaned (discard any clams that remain open after rinsing)
  • 175ml/6fl oz white wine
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh flatleaf parsley
  • 50g/2oz butter
  • 1 onion, peeled, roughly chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled, finely chopped
  • 500g/1lb 2oz parsnips, peeled, roughly chopped
  • 2 fresh sprigs thyme, leaves only
  • 750ml/1pint 7fl oz chicken stock
  • 75ml/3fl oz double cream
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 thin slices baguette, rubbed with a little oil and toasted

Preparation method

  1. Heat a frying pan over a medium heat and fry half of the bacon for 1-2 minutes, or until golden-brown. Remove from the pan, using a slotted spoon, and set aside to drain on kitchen paper.

  2. Meanwhile, heat a lidded frying pan over a medium heat. Add the clams and white wine, cover the pan with a lid and steam the clams for 2-3 minutes, or until all of the clams have opened. (Discard any clams that have not opened during cooking.)

  3. Strain the clams through a colander and reserve the cooking liquor. Pick the clam meat from the shells, place into a bowl, season, to taste, with freshly ground black pepper. Stir in the parsley and cooked bacon and set aside.

  4. Heat half of the butter in a saucepan until foaming and fry the onion, garlic and the remaining half of the bacon for 2-3 minutes, or until softened. Add the parnsips and thyme and cook a further 2-3 minutes. Pour in the reserved cooking liquor from the clams, bring the mixture to the boil and cook until the volume of the liquid has reduced by one-third.

  5. Pour in the chicken stock and return the mixture to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 8-10 minutes, or until the parsnips are tender.

  6. Stir in the double cream and blend the mixture in a blender until smooth.

  7. Pass the blended soup through a sieve into the saucepan and return to the heat. Season, to taste, with salt and freshly ground black pepper and whisk in the remaining 25g/1oz butter.

  8. To serve, spoon some of the clams into the middle of each of 4 serving bowls. Ladle the soup around the clams and top with a slice of toast.

James Martin recipes from Saturday Kitchen Best Bites

Less than 30 mins preparation time

10 to 30 mins cooking time

Serves 4

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