Michael Allemeier’s Vanilla Parsnip Soup (and a Soup Party!)

Sometimes the soup just isn’t as photogenic as the flowers.

But yet: a pot of homemade soup exemplifies nourishment, comfort and sharing, doesn’t it?

(Deep Thoughts for a Sunday night.)

You may have heard of Soup Sisters, an organization that started in Calgary in 2009 (and has since grown to operate 15 events in 9 cities across Canada every month), where participants gather in local professional kitchens for a soup-making event under the guidance of a chef facilitator, producing 150-200 servings of nourishing soup that are packaged in reusable lidded glass bowls and delivered to a local shelter. It’s half class, half kitchen party – events are social evenings with lively conversation, chopping, laughter and warm kitchen camaraderie that culminate in a simple, sit-down supper of soup, salad, bread and wine. Since March 2009, Soup Sisters has delivered over 60,000 containers of soup to 20 shelter recipients across Canada. I’ve been a Soup Sisters chef/facilitator myself, and it’s fun.

And now I’ve been asked to take photographs (gratis!) for their new cookbook. Scheduled to release this fall, it’s a wonderful collection of recipes Soup Sisters groups have made at their events across Canada, as well as recipes contributed by celebrity chefs, with proceeds going to the Soup Sisters organization. But – extenuating circumstances mean I have to get all the photos done by the end of the month. This month. So that’s 40 photos in under 2 weeks. I’m so happy to be involved, but yeah.

The time-consuming part, of course, is the preparation of all that soup. And so I called up the Cookbook Company and asked if we might take over their kitchen for a day, thinking I’d enlist some of my favourite people to come and cook pots of soup, Soup Sisters-style. The sunny upstairs kitchen is all ours this Wednesday, if anyone would like to come by and help chop, stir and simmer.

I thought I’d reserve it from 12-8, so that anyone who wants to come after work can do so. Come for the whole thing, for a bit, or for ten minutes to say hi. I’ll bring some music, buy some wine, dig up some nibbles, and pick up all the ingredients we need.

Since I’ll only need a bowlful per shot, excess soup can be brought home, so you’ll get dinner out of it.

Plus, we can hang out and cook. Which sounds to me like the most fun ever. All hands on deck!

Want to come? We’ll be in the upstairs kitchen of the Cookbook Company Wednesday from 12-8pm; come on down anytime, and leave a comment here if you could, just so I get an idea how many(ish) to expect. Maybe we’ll set up a movie in one corner for any kids who come along.

This vanilla parsnip soup isn’t in the book, but Michael Allemeier tweeted it to me awhile ago to make for a dinner party I was auctioned off to cook for, having been published in the Herald. It’s really wonderful, and so is he. The secret is to slowly sweat off the parsnips to bring out the natural sweetness, he says. I’ve made this as-is, and with a small bundle of asparagus tossed in.

The vanilla is a deliciously unique addition, something we’re used to tasting with sweet, but you can leave it out and still have a pretty fab pot of parsnip soup. If you like, add a wee dollop of curry paste and swap a small sweet potato or a couple carrots for one of the parsnips.

Vanilla parsnip soup 1
Vanilla parsnip soup 1

Michael Allemeier’s Vanilla Parsnip Soup

Recipe link


February 19, 2012

  • Makes: Serves 6 to 8.


2 Tbsp. canola or olive oil

2 Tbsp. butter

1 onion, peeled and diced

1 leek, white part only, washed and thinly sliced

2 garlic cloves, sliced

3 large parsnips, peeled and chopped

2 L (8 cups) chicken stock

1 vanilla bean (or a small dollop of vanilla bean paste)

1/2 cup cream (optional)

juice of half a lemon (or a tablespoon or two)

salt to taste


1In a large pot set over medium-high heat, heat the oil and butter. When the foam subsides add the onion, leek and garlic. Slowly sweat the vegetables until they're tender and soft but not browned - 5 minutes or so.

2Add the parsnips and continue to cook, stirring often. After about 5 minutes, add the stock and bring to a simmer.

3Cut the vanilla bean in half lengthwise and scrape out the black seeds. Add pod and seeds to the simmering soup. Simmer for 30 minutes until parsnips are tender.

4Remove the vanilla pods and discard, and stir in the cream. Puree the soup well using a hand-held immersion blender or in batches in a regular blender. Add the lemon juice and season with salt.

Makes: Serves 6 to 8.

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39 comments on “Michael Allemeier’s Vanilla Parsnip Soup (and a Soup Party!)

  1. calgirl
    February 19, 2012 at 7:06 pm

    Mmm soup. Nourishment for the soul. This sounds like fun…count me in!

  2. Rosemary
    February 19, 2012 at 7:21 pm

    Sounds like a ton of fun. I’m wishing I could be there. I like broccoli soup with parmesan cheese.


  3. Cassie
    February 19, 2012 at 8:29 pm

    Ooo, I like the idea of kids being able to come and watch a movie. I’m a maybe!
    Plus that soup sounds delish!

  4. christine
    February 19, 2012 at 8:35 pm

    I think I can make it from 4-6. Will that be of any help?

  5. christine
    February 19, 2012 at 8:35 pm

    sorry, e-mail last time failed..

  6. Shawna y
    February 19, 2012 at 9:02 pm

    We were at micheal’s place when made that soup at it was awesome. Even my picky husband liked it. Pretty much everything micheal makes is awesome so of you can get one of his recipes you are very lucky!

  7. Fareen
    February 19, 2012 at 10:23 pm

    Sounds like fun! My aunt, who is a chef in England, is visiting – maybe I can get her to come with me too.

  8. Shannon
    February 19, 2012 at 10:37 pm

    I am a long time follower/lurker and have made SO many of your recipes but never posted. Off work for a bit and my husband is out of town this week, so timing is perfect and this just strikes me as something good to do. And I have a couple of vintage paperback cookbooks (from my sister’s estate, tho probably from my mother) I have been intending to drop off at the CBC for you and just never got around to, so 2 birds with one stone. I’ll plan to come around noon and stay till whenever.

  9. Erica B.
    February 19, 2012 at 10:53 pm

    Count me in! I have the whole day free even! =)

  10. Emily Richards
    February 20, 2012 at 3:08 am

    Julie, this sounds wonderful and it made me think of how long it’s been since I’ve seen Michael! I hope he is well and of course you and the fam are doing well. It would be great to help make soup with you but the distance is too great. I’ll make a soup in honour of it all though. Big hugs xoxo

  11. Donna
    February 20, 2012 at 6:47 am

    Wow Julie – You get involved in so many great projects.
    I’d love to come help but I am far away on holidays.
    I’ve discovered that Aussies love “beetroot”, cooked pumpkin, and any sport. Best wishes for Wednesday.

  12. ileana
    February 20, 2012 at 7:18 am

    This sounds interesting. Never had a soup with vanilla in it. Thanks!

  13. J Smith
    February 20, 2012 at 9:06 am

    I just spent 3 great weeks in Chef Alleiemer’s class at SAIT and on the first day he had me add a Vanilla pod to my Lobster Bisque. It changed from a good Bisque, to an incredible Bisque.

  14. Colleen
    February 20, 2012 at 9:07 am

    Julie, I’d love to come and help. I get off work at 5 and will make my way then. See you. If you get too many people volunteering – just let me know and I will back out.

  15. Meta4
    February 20, 2012 at 10:22 am

    Here is one more body to help you chop and cook.
    I’m retired and can stay all day if you need me.
    You may not know this but we are distant relatives.
    Your mother and the mother of my new daughter in law are cousins.
    I have followed you on CBC and on line and tried out many of your recipes with great success. Now I’m looking forward to meet you in person.


  16. Vicki
    February 20, 2012 at 11:19 am

    I can do 12-3 on Wednesday. See you then. Do we need to bring anything Julie?

  17. Theresa
    February 20, 2012 at 5:05 pm

    Coming from Red Deer! Will stay the day :). Do we need to bring supplies, money, wine?

  18. Jaya
    February 20, 2012 at 5:38 pm

    Julie, I would love to come! I haven’t seen you since your Cookie party and now I’m eating soup for two….well, more like 1.1 :)

    Is there anything us folks can bring to help out? Extra cameras, $ to support the cause, etc?

  19. Linda
    February 20, 2012 at 5:59 pm

    Looking forward to it. Be there sometime after 12 to whenever.

  20. Sheila
    February 20, 2012 at 6:13 pm

    Sounds like fun! I’ll be there at 12 and stay till around 2:30. I can’t wait to meet you!

    • JulieVR
      February 20, 2012 at 7:40 pm

      I’m so excited that you’re all coming! Don’t worry about bringing anything – I’ll try to rustle up everything we need! Whoo hoo!

      • JulieVR
        February 20, 2012 at 7:41 pm

        And no – no need to bring money! The regular events are paid (to cover ingredients etc) but this is something totally different!

  21. Joanne
    February 21, 2012 at 4:00 pm

    I’ll try to be there by 1pm.

  22. KathyG
    February 21, 2012 at 4:49 pm

    Yay soup! I should be able to come around 1 and stay most of the day, minus an hour in mid-afternoon.


  23. CathyD
    February 21, 2012 at 7:43 pm

    Gah, I’d LOVE to come. Darn meetings! Can’t wait to hear how it goes.

  24. Vincci
    February 21, 2012 at 10:32 pm

    I will be doing my laundry and banking at top speed tomorrow to try to make it for a few hours before my kickboxing class! Can’t wait!

  25. Dianne
    February 21, 2012 at 11:20 pm

    Goodluck with it all Julie. If I wasn’t having just one more surgery on Thursday I’d be there.

    Love the stuff you’re doing. Are you going to see Martin Picard? Ron and I are.

  26. Marion
    February 21, 2012 at 11:42 pm

    My husband can watch our kids, but only until 2. So I am there for a good time, not a long time!!

  27. Fareen
    February 22, 2012 at 7:36 am

    It was nice seeing you yesterday Julie! Unfortunately, I might not be able to make it after all. Have a great time!

  28. Kathy
    February 22, 2012 at 8:49 am

    wish I could come..my injured arm won’t allow me to though!

  29. Pat Lothrop
    February 22, 2012 at 10:27 am

    I’d love to drop in to say Hi, Diamond Willow also hosts Soup Sisters Sundays every second month – it’s amazing fun, feel-good, friendly way to spend a day in the country! Hope to see you there sometime!

  30. KathyG
    February 23, 2012 at 2:38 pm

    Soupapalooza was so much fun! Not to mention the joy of meeting you and Michael and everyone else. You know the nicest people. Count me in any time you need a hand.

    I still feel guilty for taking home so much soup — somebody mustn’t have taken their share.

  31. Theresa
    February 23, 2012 at 2:51 pm

    So much fun! So many awesome soup sisters! It was wonderful to meet you all. That sweet potato red pepper and corn soup…… Oh my it was good.

  32. Jen
    March 2, 2012 at 9:54 pm

    I wish I had seen your post earlier. I would have loved to come. The soup sister project sounds awesome. Maybe next time I could get involved. I also see that you have the blogger without border badge on your website. I know that in the US there is a huge national bake sale with them going on. Wondering if something similar is going on in Canada and I just do not know about it. Any idea? Have a nice weekend!

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