Although I am sure that a) if there was never another cookbook published, we would have plenty of recipes for several millennia, that, b) a bit like stories, there are only so many techniques and recipes that anyone can invent, use or need in a lifetime and finally, that c) most recipes are derivatives of others and simply repeats and reworks inspired by great predecessors (my own, obviously, included), I am still, eighty cookbooks down and counting, a complete sucker for a new one. My sister showed me her copy of Sarah Raven’s Garden Cookbook at Christmas and, although there is plenty in it I have seen before, there is plenty of new stuff too. I managed to resist buying it (January financial detox oblige…) but I ordered it from the library as soon as I could. And now I don’t want to give it back.
I love recipe books that divide into months and/or seasons (The Kitchen Diaries or Riverford Everyday and Sunday are great examples) mainly because it’s relatively easy to wax lyrical when there is everything to play with (asparagus, courgettes, myriad types of home-grown lettuce, raspberries, plums, new potatoes…need I go on?) but much harder to keep that lyricism going through the winter. And, at over 400 pages, this offers a mass of inspiration for the summer months but also for those when there isn’t much about. Like now. Celeriac, nature’s ugly duckling, is here transformed into a swan in at least three wonderful ways (caramelised with pancetta, grated in a salad with lime and honey and this soup) but there are new ways with old potatoes (in gratins with sage and sorrel, and mashed with nutmeg), parsnips (in a smoked haddock fishcake or rolled and roasted with Parmesan) and chicory (with blood orange in a salad). If this is what winter can inspire, then I can’t wait to turn the page for her spring and summer recipes (might have to buy a copy by then; not sure the library will let me borrow it for that long…). In fact the only thing I don’t like about this book is the cover; talk about not being able to make a decision!
So, whilst you wait for the delights of sunshine and warmth, soothe your cold tum with this easy, delicious yet incredibly healthy soup. It has barely a trace of dairy, fat or wheat (see I can get into this January spirit you know!) and I think, sorry HFW, that it’s better than the one I cooked before Christmas.
Celeriac and apple soup (adapted from Sarah Raven’s Garden Cookbook)
For two good portions you will need
Cupboard (or things you may already have):
white onion, 1
garlic clove, 1
apple, Bramley or dessert, 1
chicken or vegetable stock, 500ml or 1 chicken or vegetable stock cube
celeriac, about 300g (half a small one)
celery, 1 to 2 ribs (1 if large, 2 if small)
blue cheese, 40g
single cream, a tablespoon (optional, to serve)
crisp fried bacon pieces, a tablespoon (optional, to serve)
1. Peel and chop the onion, celeriac and garlic; trim and wash the celery if necessary.
2. Put the butter into a medium saucepan over a low heat and add the vegetables. Sweat for about 5-10 minutes until softened but not coloured.
3. Whilst the vegetables are softening make up the stock if necessary or heat it gently in a small saucepan.
4. Add the stock to the vegetables, bring to the boil and leave to simmer for about ten minutes.
5. Peel the apple, add it to the soup, cover and leave to simmer for about another ten minutes (the apple will be mushy and the celeriac soft).
6. Off the heat, blend the soup until smooth either with a food processor or blender
7. Return the soup to the pan, season and reheat gently. You may need to thin it a little with hot water or hot stock, if you prefer it a bit thinner.
8. Chop the blue cheese into small pieces, stir into the soup until melted, season again if necessary and serve. A little single cream and crispy bacon would finish this off beautifully.