Norfolk. The home of the root vegetable. Indoors, we ate mashed carrot and swede, roast parsnips, pot roast turnips, baked potatoes, pickled beetroot. Outside there were clamps of sugar beet and mangles everywhere. But I cannot remember ever eating or seeing celeriac.
Technically a swollen hypocotyl, celeriac starts off knobbly and tough-looking but by the end of the cooking process is a soft, creamy delight. Its subtle yet deep flavours can stand up for themselves, as in this soup, or act as a backdrop for other more showy ingredients. Warm and satisfying, it is a very accommodating vegetable.
- Ingredients: One medium/800g celeriac, 2 shallots, a large knob (20g) of butter, 30ml single cream, the same of milk, fresh thyme, black pepper, salt, water.
- Garnish: one chestnut mushroom, thinly sliced, parsley stalks, olive oil.
- Method: Wash and peel the celeriac. Cut into slices and then into 1cm cubes. Melt the butter in a deep heavy pan. Add the celeriac, chopped shallots and a few leaves of thyme. Stir around on a medium heat until the corners of the cubes are rubbing off and there is a slight colour change. Then add some pepper and salt, followed by enough boiling water to cover the celeriac.
Continue cooking until everything is soft. Then crush with a potato masher. Pour on the cream and half the milk. Blend with a stick blender until completely smooth. Add more milk to loosen the soup – it thickens as you blend it.
The soup is now complete and bar testing the seasoning, ready to eat. It is a lovely warming mouthful and doesn’t need anything else. However, it is good also with home made croutons, bread and cheese, and can be used as a base for chowder – both fish and corn. Here I have served it with a crispy garnish of mushroom and parsley and a soupçon of olive oil.
I could bring this to a conclusion with a quip about Norfolk, but I won’t, because I love it so.