Some thoughts on celeriac and soup

I love celeriac and soup, so a combination of these two things makes me very happy. I am going to share my recipe for a chunky vegetable soup with a celeriac base. This is the first of a series of recipes I am going to write – intending to revive and inspire the use of this vegetable. It is such a great ingredient – it has a stronger flavour than celery without the stringy-ness some people hate. It gives a velvety texture which is quite similar to potato (but is much lower in starch) and is in short a perfect soup ingredient. It is a vegetable which is sadly overlooked. I have often found that people don’t know what to do with it, or even what it is. It does look quite strange – the white old man of root vegetables. Its appearance is also slightly reminiscent of the ‘root baby’ in Pan’s Labyrinth  – for those of you I have already lost along the wayside, I have included a picture comparison below.

Leeks, celeriac and carrots - all waiting impatiently to get into my soup.

Leeks, celeriac and carrots – all waiting impatiently to get into my soup.

Celeriac relative in the bowl?

Celeriac relative in the bowl?

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium celeriac
  • 2 carrots
  • 3 leeks
  • 2 onions
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 1 sweet potato
  • 3 sticks of celery
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1800ml stock
  • 1 generous glug of olive oil

Use the celeriac as a base and then vary the other ingredients according to what you have in the house. A soup is the perfect way to use up tired vegetables and prevent them from going to waste.

Method:

Dice the onions and mince the garlic and gently cook on a low heat for about 10-15 minutes,  stirring regularly until they are translucent, but not coloured.  Meanwhile peel and cube the celeriac and chop the other vegetables. Add everything to the pot and allow to sweat on a low – medium heat for a further 5-10 minutes. (A low heat preserves the vitamin content and flavour) Then add the stock and cook for an hour minimum – long slow cook is better. I like to half-blend this soup. By this I mean when it is cooked I take out half the soup put it in a food processor (or a magi-mix and a big bowl works well) and then put the blended half back with the rest and cook for a further 5 minutes. The result of this is a chunky soup with a smooth base, avoiding the reminder of baby food which a completely processed soup sometimes gives.

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Apple, maple and pecan muffins

This is by no means a recipe which speaks of any kind of austerity. They are great in the afternoon and play very well with a good cup of coffee. I made them because I needed to use up a bit of maple syrup. It was taking up space in the cupboard and threatening to crystallise. Though this was an experiment, I was rather pleased with the results and it really is an amazing combination even if I say so myself….. If you wanted a more wholesome breakfast muffin you could of course give the icing a miss and add maple extract to the muffin mix – though this would be a very sad omission.

The apple and pecans are in the muffin mixture, while the maple addition is added in the cream cheese icing.  I am obsessed with cream cheese icing – there are so many things you can do with it, so many different flavours to be tried. I always thought of icing as something that I didn’t like and would leave behind the sickly, tooth achingly sweet goo. This is all-together a different kind of affair.

 

 

Without further waffling I’ll write you the very easy recipe.

 

Muffins:

75g unsalted butter

75g castor sugar

200g plain flour

1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

2 tsp baking powder

pinch of salt

100ml yogurt

100ml of milk

175g pealed, cored and cubed apple

30g chopped pecans

1 large egg

Icing:

200g full fat cream cheese

2-3 tbs maple syrup or to taste

1 tbs icing sugar

Method

Muffins:

  • Preheat the oven to 200C / gas mark 6
  • Muffin cases in muffin tins or just grease the tins
  • Gently melt the butter and leave to cool
  • Combine the dry ingredients in large bowl
  • Use a measuring jug to beat together the egg, the melted and cooled butter, milk and yogurt
  • Mix the apple and pecans with the dry ingredients
  • Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and gently fold together. Lumps are fine, just don’t over mix it or you won’t get light muffins
  • Spoon into your muffin tins and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until golden and well risen.

Icing:

  • Combine all the ingredients in a bowl, making sure you sieve the icing sugar first
  • If the mixture gets too runny add more icing sugar / and or put it in the fridge.

Eat greedily with or without company.

 

Left-overs into Jambalaya!

Among my crowded shelf of cookbooks I discovered  an old brown copy bearing the somewhat ironic name ‘Modern Cookery’. It looked out of place among its brightly coloured neighbours, who boasted celebrity names and colour images. It turned out to be the guide of choice for all my grandmother’s meals and while some of the advice it gives is best forgotten (forty minutes for cooking leeks!) there is wisdom to be found.

A whole chapter is dedicated to ‘New Dishes from Left-overs’.  This is something like clever PR job in your own home. Take something old, give it new bedfellows and a different dish is born. This section indicates how much our attitudes to food have changed in just a couple of generations, highlighting the culture of excess we now live in. I’m not saying we should return to rationing, but perhaps just remember some of those values which are so alien to us.  You would be very hard pushed to find a section in a modern cookbook that includes ideas for re-inventing excess ingredients.
 I decided to make something with the remains of yesterdays roast beef, which was lurking in the fridge and threatening to be forgotten. I also had some chorizo, cherry tomatoes and a bell pepper coveting a position in what I decided was going to be a Jambalaya of sorts.
So anyway here is my very easy Jambalaya inspired dish.

Because the aim of this dish is to use up left-overs, proportions and specific ingredients are not that important. But I’ll write down the essentials and the variables.
Essential ingredients:

  • 250g of any rice (I like brown short grain)
  • 1 tin of peeled plum tomatoes/chopped tomatoes
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 6 cloves of garlic, (or to taste) minced
  • pinch chilli flakes or powder, (more if you want it really spicy)
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • glug of olive oil
  • 125ml red wine or alternatively stock
  • 1 bay leaf
  • seasoning

Variable ingredients:

    • Vegetables: I used a few handfuls of cherry tomatoes, one red bell pepper, a few spring onions and a handful of spinach. Alternatively any kind of pepper, aubergine, courgettes or tomatoes would work well. Coriander optional.

    • Meat or beans: I used around 400g of roast beef (chopped into chunks is better than sliced here) and 100g of choritzo. You could use any left-over meat you have! For a vegetarian version use any kind of tinned beans 400g and add extra veg – but remember to add a few tsp of paprika if you are not using chorizo.

Method:

  1. For the rice, cover with boiling water and simmer until nearly cooked, then drain and set to the side.

  2. Saute the onions garlic and chorizo in olive oil on a medium heat with a pinch of salt, until the onions become transluscent.

  3. Then the meat/beans and vegetables of choice and cook on medium heat for about 5 minutes.

  4. Then add wine or stock, tin of tomatoes, oregano and chilli and simmer for 10 minutes

  5. Finally add the rice and cook until tender.

  6. Serve and enjoy!