I’m no fan of celery but I do like the sweetish, earthy flavour of its relation celeriac, a knobbly-looking root which is in fact a hypocotyl – the below-ground stem of a leaf – and not a root at all, giving it the advantage over most roots that it is not at all starchy. Some people like the grated or thinly sliced flesh of celeriac in salads, but personally, I find the taste of it raw rather sickly. Cut into pieces, steamed, and treated much as mashed potato, it’s very good – and far lighter than mash. In soup it’s excellent.
Celeriac – 1, about 12-15 cm in diametre
Onion – 1 large
Potato – 1 medium
Cauliflower – half of one medium
Garlic – 2 cloves
Cumin – 1 tsp
Curry powder – 1 heaped tsp
Fresh ginger – 2 cm cube
Parsley – small sprig
Vegetable stock or stock cube
Peel and chop the onions and garlic. Peel the ginger; if you like ginger and plan to leave it in the finished soup, chop it; if not, leave it in one or two largish lumps which can be fished out easily.
Heat a couple of tablespoons of oil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan and gently fry the onions, garlic and ginger, together with the cumin and curry powder. I’m being a bit generic here: you could use garam masala or any curry powder mix you fancy, or you could whizz up your own blend of spices – it depends on what you like. The quantity, however, is so small that it isn’t going to have a huge influence on the finished soup – it just gives it a hint of spiciness.
Cut the hard outside off the celeriac and chop the flesh into small cubes. Peel and chop the potato. Add these to the onions etc in the saucepan, and just cover everything with water or vegetable stock. Bring it to the boil and let it simmer gently, covered, until the vegetables are soft. If you’re using stock cube, add it to the bubbling mixture. If the water/stock seems to be drying up, add enough to keep the vegetables more or less covered.
While the vegetables are simmering, break half a cauliflower into very small florets and rinse them.
Twenty minutes should be enough to soften the celeriac and potato. Take it off the heat and, with a stick blender, blitz the ingredients in the saucpan until they are smooth. Hot bits may fly, so be very careful how you do this. And don’t forget to fish out the ginger pieces if you don’t want them in there. You’ll probably find that what you have in the saucepan now is thick enough to stand a spoon up in – more mash than soup. Add enough water/stock to make it into a thick liquid, add the cauliflower florets, and put the pot back on a low heat, uncovered, to carry on simmering for a further 15 minutes, or long enough to cook the cauliflower through.
Serve this soup with a drizzle of very good oil, lots of freshly ground black pepper and a sprinkling of finely-chopped parsley.
© Anne Hanley, 2012