A MIGHTY SOUP THAT’S WORTHY OF A DINNER.
Every time I tell my boyfriend that I’m going to make soup for dinner he always looks at me in that same grateful but unsure way and I can almost hear him mentally going through the contents of the fridge as he wonders desperately what he will fill his unsatisfied, post-soup belly with. And never has this been more true than when I said I was making celery soup for dinner. So right there is my challenge to make a soup that’s hearty and worthy enough to hold main course status and stop him rustling through the noodle and rice cupboard after dinner.
Last night I think I nailed it.
October is a great time of year for celery or Fenland celery which has a short season and I picked up an amazing big bunch in town along with my favourite ugly vegetable – the celeriac. Stilton is always great with celery and I love it on toast – my Dad used to make it for me when I was little and I’m fairly sure most little girls didn’t get stilton on toast as a light snack when they were peckish but that is one reason why my Dad is better than anyone else’s. I thought I’d adapt this by making a stilton cheese crouton and grilling it on the soup in a kind of French onion style so you get the crunchy top with the soup soaked bread at the bottom. Also I knew that if I was going to make this a mans meal I was going to have to include meat somewhere, so I got some thick cut smokey bacon from the butchers. I also used smoked seasalt and smoked garlic to add a bit more depth of flavour. And obviously an amazing loaf of bread is crucial and I’m lucky enough to share a town with a Hambleton Bakery who’s loafs and tarts are good enough to make me weak at the knees.
Recipe adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi
CELERY SOUP WITH CELERIAC AND THYME, SMOKED BACON AND STILTON CROUTONS
1 medium celeriac peeled and chopped into 2cm pieces.
5 large sticks of celery chopped into 1 cm pieces
2 onions roughly chopped
2 cloves of smoked garlic finely sliced
Small bunch of fresh thyme roughly chopped – keep some reserved for garnish
grated zest of one lemon and juice from no more than half
4 thick rashers smoked bacon – streaky or back dependiing on preference
Stilton for the croutons
Good quality baton of bread for croutons
small knob of butter
smoked sea-salt and black pepper
Pre-heat the oven to 180°C fan.
Put a table spoon of olive oil into a large pan on a medium heat followed by a knob of butter when its warm. Add the celeriac, onion, garlic and celery until it begins to soften – about 10 to 15 minutes. Add the chopped thyme and lemon zest and cook for another couple of minutes. Pour over enough hot chicken stock to cover the veg and a little bit more for luck. Simmer for 30 minutes or until veg is cooked through.
While this is cooking you can make the toppings. Slice the bread into 1 cm disks, brush both sides with olive oil and sprinkle with a little salt and put on a tray in the oven for about 20 mins until golden and well toasted, turning halfway through halfway through.
Fry the bacon with very little oil until its a crispy as you dare go, remove from the pan and roughly chop.
When the croutons are done turn off the oven. Top them with crumbled stilton and put to one side with the bacon.
When the veg is cooked in the soup, use a slotted spoon to pull out half of the chunks of celery and celeriac and keep to one side. Blitz the rest of the veg with the stock with an electric blender till smooth and put back onto the pan with the reserved veg and bring back to a simmer. Squeeze int the lemon juice and season to taste. I didn’t use too much salt as you will be garnishing with the bacon and the salted croutons.
Now pop on the grill to heat up while you assemble the soup. Ladle the soup into wide, shallow bowls, sit a stilton crouton on top in the middle and sprinkle the bacon pieces around the outside. Pop under the grill until the soup and the cheese just start to bubble.
Garnish with a celery leaf and some chopped fresh thyme and serve.
Hope you enjoy this as much as I did!