Thursday, 9 October 2014

Creamy Celeriac Soup with Waldorf Garnish

The weather has begun to get quite chilly and the days are definitely getting shorter. To be honest, I am not actually complaining because I actually love this time of year. I love sitting snuggled into the sofa, in front of the firs, sipping tea and reading through my cookbooks! To me that is the perfect way to spend an evening… well… THE perfect way to spend an evening is having a good meal out in good company, but snuggling on the sofa comes a close second!

When autumn and then winter really set in, there is nothing I crave more than comfort food; food that is delicious, warming and satisfying. When I think of comfort food, I think of hearty stews, puddings with loads of hot custard, hot milky drinks and steamy bowls or mugs full of nourishing soup.

One of the first things I ever cooked from scratch was cream of celery soup, which upon tasting my mother loved and would often ask me to make thereafter.

I often feel sorry for celery… because it is so rarely showcased as a vegetable in its own right, but rather it is used as a base ingredient in stock, stews and soups or raw as a crudité. It never seems to get the limelight. Although celery leaves can be eaten they are rather string tasting, so it is most usually the stem of the plan that we eat, which when fresh is beautifully crisp to eat.


The first time that I really appreciated this particular vegetable was the first time that I made my cream of celery soup. Celery can sometimes taste a little bitter, but I actually quite like that and it is this quality that makes it perfect for pairing with blue cheese where the earthy sweetness of the cheese balances any slight bitterness in the celery.

Celeriac on the other hand is a root vegetable which has become extremely popular as a vegetable in recent years. Celeriac is not unlike celery in taste, but it has a sweeter, earthier taste. It is extremely versatile and can be eaten raw as in, for example, a classic remoulade or cooked in a variety of ways.

Given the slightly cooler weather, I really felt in the need for something warming to eat, but didn’t want something heavy or stodgy. I had initially decided to make a cream of celery soup, but opted to use celeriac instead.
 
If you have never used or prepared celeriac before, do not be put off by its very knobbly almost alarming appearance. Let me assure you that this strange looking vegetable makes the most velvety soup imaginable. It is easier enough to prepare, just use a large sharp knife to cut away the outside skin to reveal its creamy white flesh, which you can then cut into chunks ready to be used in the soup.

The soup can be eaten as it is, once it is made, but you can also garnish it with croutons, a dash of cream or the option that I give here, with a spoonful of finely chopped Waldorf salad. The constituent ingredients of a Waldorf salad are celery, apple and walnuts bound together in a mayonnaise dressing. I have dispensed with the mayonnaise and dressed the garnish with a light vinaigrette made with cider vinegar and rapeseed oil. I also lightly caramelized the walnuts before chopping them and I loved the sweetness that this brought to the dish. This garnish was absolutely heavenly and added a fresh and fruity element to the rich and creamy soup which was delicious.
 

Ingredients:

Soup:
50g butter
3 shallots, peeled and chopped
1 large celeriac, peeled and diced (about 600g)
500ml vegetable stock
200ml cream
A little freshly grated nutmeg
Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
Waldorf garnish:
20g caster sugar
50g walnuts
½ Granny Smith, apple peeled and finely diced
2 sticks of celery, finely diced
1tsp cider vinegar
2-3 tsp rapeseed oil
Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
 

Method:

1. Place the butter on a large saucepan over a moderate heat and once it is melted add the chopped shallots and allow to sweat for about 5 minutes, without colouring until they are translucent. Add the diced celeriac and allow to sweat for a further 5-7 minutes, again without colouring.
2. Once the celeriac has begun to soften a little, add the vegetable stock and increase the heat under the saucepan. Bring up to the boil. Once everything is bubbling away, reduce the heat to a gentle simmer and allow to cook for approximately 15 minutes until the celeriac is very soft. Remove from the heat.
3. Spoon the mixture into a food processor (or use a stick blender) and purée until smooth. Pass the purée through a fine sieve into a clean saucepan and add the cream. Taste, add a pinch of ground nutmeg and adjust seasoning as necessary. Allow to heat gently (but do not boil) while you make the Waldorf garnish.
Waldorf garnish:
4. Place a small frying pan over a moderate heat and add the walnuts. Heat the walnuts for a minute or two until they begin to small nutty and just start to colour. Sprinkle the sugar over the walnuts and toss together. The sugar will begin to melt. Keep a close eye on the walnuts, stirring them frequently as the sugar can caramelize very quickly. As soon as this happens, remove from the heat and turn out onto some non-stick baking parchment. Allow to cool.
5. When cool chop into small dice and mix with diced apple and celery in a small bowl. Add the cider vinegar and rapeseed oil and season well. Mix everything together with a small teaspoon.
To serve:
6. Pour the soup into serving bowls and top with a heaped teaspoon of the garnish.
 
Serves 6.