A little bit decadent, who says you can’t be fancy and planet friendly at the same time?
Growing celeriac in my vege garden for the first time has been interesting. It takes forever to grow. Today I harvested the first of my crop, and it’s been in the ground for at least six months! No wonder they’re expensive, when you can find them at all. I wonder if they sell them at the Hamilton Farmers Market, does anyone know?
So on this sunny winter morning I got my hands very dirty wrestling to get one out of the ground. Its knobbly root mass anchors celeriac very firmly so it was a bit of a mission. The roots hold a lot of dirt which makes it a bit of a mess to clean, I wish i’d done it on the grass with a hose instead of in my kitchen which ended up covered in mud.
I finally got it clean and trimmed, and was left with this. You lose a lot, so you want to start with a pretty good sized one.
What to do with it? I’ve only cooked celeriac once before and it wasn’t a huge success, so I put a bit more thought into it this time. This excellent article by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall also gave me some good ideas about flavours and cooking time.
Celeriac browns quickly, so don’t cut it until you’re ready to throw it in the pot.
I had a container of porcini mushrooms in the cupboard and had a bit of a hunch they’d work well together. Right I was. They have a great umami flavour which really adds to this dish. They’re not exactly a pantry staple for most people and i’m sure the soup would still be delicious without them. If you want to track some down, you’ll find them in good supermarkets or gourmet food stores.
With the addition of cannellini beans and hazelnuts this simple soup packs a protein punch along with a complex earthy flavour which is very appealing. I’ll definitely be making it again.
Celeriac, cannellini and porcini soup
- 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 2 onions, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 6 leaves fresh sage, chopped (about 1 tbsp)
- leaves A few sprigs of fresh thyme, picked
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 celeriac, trimmed and chopped
- 10 g dried porcini mushrooms
- 1 can cannellini beans, drained and well rinsed
- 2 cups of vegetable stock (if using store-bought, check the label to ensure it's dairy/gluten free if that's important for you)
- Juice of half a lemon
- 1/2 cup almond milk, optional
- 1/4 cup hazelnuts
- Put porcini mushrooms (if using) in a small bowl and cover with boiling water. Set aside.
- Heat olive oil in a deep saucepan then add onions, garlic, sage and thyme. Cook gently until well softened and fragrant. Add celeriac and stir through. Add vegetable stock, cannellini beans and bay leaf. Reserve a few porcini mushrooms to garnish, and add the rest (including that funky smelling soaking water) into the pot. Top up with boiling water if necessary to cover the celeriac.
- Simmer for about half an hour, until the celeriac is very soft.
- While the soup is cooking, roast your hazelnuts in an oven preheated to 180C. They'll take 5-10 minutes for the skins to split and the nuts to become golden. Keep a close eye on them after five minutes as they burn quickly. Do you need to bother with this step? In my opinion yes. The skins can be quite bitter, but really easy to remove once roasted. Once the nuts are cool enough to handle, tip them onto a clean tea towel. Give them a good rub between the fabric and you'll be surprised to find pretty clean nuts ready to use. Roughly chop then set aside.
- Remove the bay leaf from the pot, then blend soup until smooth. You could do this with a stick blender, or in a jug blender (in batches). Be careful, it's hot.
- Add juice of half a lemon, 1/2 cup almond milk and seasoning to taste. if your soup is very thick you may need to thin it further. I added an additional half cup of water at this stage.
- Gently reheat if necessary, then serve garnished with chopped hazelnuts, a few of the reserved porcini mushrooms, a drizzle of olive oil and perhaps a fried sage leaf or two. Crusty sourdough bread completes the picture.