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Bowled over by ugly vegetable.

Celeriac seems to have gained a reputation as our ugliest vegetable.

Yes it's wrinkly and knobbly but it's actually hugely versatile and packed full of flavour.

It is basically a root vegetable with a kind of sweet celery taste and has a beautiful smooth texture that makes it perfect for things like purees, mashes and, as I'm doing today, soup.

It's really simple to prepare. Just peel it and dice or slice depending on what you want to do. If you're a keen cook then you should have a go at making a dauphinois-style bake using either all celeriac or a mix of celeriac and potato.

Blue cheese is not to everybody's taste, but there are plenty of different ones out there, some incredibly mild and not too 'stinky'.

An Italian blue cheese like dolcelatte is a good starting point for novice blue cheesers. But fear not, if you really can't handle the thought of blue cheese, just use something else, it's not actually going into the soup, it's going on top of the toasted croutons to serve with the dish. My second recommendation would be goats' cheese, which works fantastically well toasted on the croutons but simple cheddar will also do.

Today's soup is beautiful and smooth with lots of other flavours added. Nothing too overpowering, just things that complement the flavour of the celeriac.

So I've got some apples and honey that add a bit of sweetness and also a splash of cider vinegar to offset that with a little sharpness. And mustard and fresh thyme work really well with celeriac.

The soup should take no more than half an hour start to finish and with the toasts is a light meal in itself or it makes a great starter.

In my top tip, I'll give you some ideas for other soups you can try that are not too dissimilar.

Any root vegetable makes a good soup, particularly if you follow today's method. Swap celeriac for sweet potato, butternut squash, parsnip or even Jerusalem artichoke. Change the herbs, say match up sage with parsnip or rosemary with sweet potato. Add some white wine instead of cider and experiment with the cheese in your croutons.

My top tip

CELERIAC SOUP WITH BLUE CHEESE CROUTONS

SERVES 4-6 INGREDIENTS

| 2tbsp olive oil

| Large knob of butter

| 2 onions, chopped

| 2 cloves garlic, crushed

| 1 stick celery, chopped

| 1 large celeriac, peeled and chopped

| 4 apples, peeled, cored and diced

| 1tsp fresh chopped thyme leaves

| 2tsp Dijon mustard

| 1tbsp honey | Splash cider

| Splash cider vinegar

| 2 litres chicken stock

| 200ml double cream

| Salt and white pepper

METHOD In a large pan, heat the oil and butter. Add the onions, garlic and celery and cook over a medium heat for 10 minutes until soft. Add the celeriac, apples, honey, mustard and thyme and cook for 2-3 minutes.

Add the stock, cider and cider vinegar, and season with salt and pepper, and simmer over a low heat for 30 minutes until the celeriac is tender. Add the cream, cook for another few minutes then remove from the heat and blitz with a hand blender until smooth. Adjust seasoning if required.

FOR THE CROUTONS:

| Baguette sliced

| Dolcelatte or other blue cheese

METHOD

Toast slices of baguette under the grill on one side, then spread the other side with the cheese and grill until golden. Serve on top of the soup in bowls.

CAPTION(S):

MICHAEL KILKIE
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Article Type:Recipe
Date:Feb 28, 2016
Words:571
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