It’s that time of year when comfort food is a must. The end of January means we’re ploughing our way through winter but the weather is still grey and cold, the nights long and Spring seems a long way off. I treated myself to some sneaky winter sun by nipping back to India for a week; the winter weather in Bangalore is near perfect for me – bright blue skies, high 20s in the day, cooler in the mornings. Coming back to a fresh north wind, snow showers and minus 0 temperatures is my penance!
Having left the family home alone, I was expecting the fridge to be bare yesterday lunchtime – fortunately the Riverford vegetable box had arrived so there was lots of fresh produce to play with. Soup was definitely in order, and there on the shelf waiting for me was one of my favourite veggies – celeriac.
A member of the same family as celery, the bulbous roots are cultivated rather then the stems and leaves. I feel a bit sorry for celeriac as it just a bit bobbly and ugly – it reminds me of The Ood on Dr Who! But as the saying goes, true beauty lies within, and underneath the cracks and bumps lies clear, creamy flesh that tastes rich and satisfying when cooked. Of course, it can be finely sliced and used in salads or remoulade, but that’s another blog post.
Celeriac is under-rated as a winter root vegetable – nutritionally it’s packed full of fibre, essential for a healthy gut, as well as potassium, vitamin C, K and B, some magnesium and manganese. If you want a potato substitute, it works brilliantly as a mash and has a lower GI as it releases it’s sugars more slowly, great if you are diabetic or pre-diabetic. It also has minimal fat content, and of course no cholesterol, so combined with the high fibre levels, works brilliantly to help reduce your LDL cholesterol levels (the bad stuff!).
As the oven was on for a long time at Christmas, I baked a celeriac whole and served it up as a whole so everyone could help themselves, spooning out the creamy flesh straight from the foil. It was delicious. If you want to do that, it takes about 2 hours 20minutes, depending on the size of your root. Clean the outside skin as much as possible and rub with salt and a little olive oil. Drop a couple of garlic cloves on the top and then wrap up in tin foil. Place in an oven on a baking dish at 180oC and bake for 2 hours, then open up the foil and cook for another 20 minutes. The celeriac should be soft to the touch. Take out of the oven and cut open, add some non-dairy butter if you so desire and serve as it is.
But that is not the recipe for today – now you have two for the price of one! This celeriac and apple soup is fabulous and really quick and easy to make. It’s comforting, warming and filling – all the things you need on a winters day – packed with minerals, vitamins and phytonutrients to keep you healthy, low in fat and simple carbs, so it won’t make you fat (unlike so many winter comforts!). Serve with some chopped almonds, chives and a good sprinkle of black pepper. Serious comfort, dairy free and delicious!
Celeriac and apple soup
1 onion, chopped
1 stick celery, chopped
1 medium celeriac
1 teaspoon thyme
1 litre vegetable stock
1 teaspoon olive oil
salt and pepper
toasted sliced almonds and chives (optional)
Heat a couple of tablespoons of water in a large pan and sauté the onion and celery. Whilst this is cooking, peel the celeriac and apple and chop into small chunks – both start to oxidise when open to the air, so you want to work fast so they don’t get too discoloured. Add both to the pan with the thyme and continue to sauté for a few minutes on a low heat to caramelise a little. Add the stock, season and simmer for 20 minutes or so until all the veggies and apple are soft. Leave to cool for a few minutes, then blitz with a hand blender until smooth. If the soup is too thick for you, add more stock or some non-dairy milk. Reheat and serve, garnished with almonds and chives if you so desire. Enjoy!