Celeriac (or celery root, in the USA) is one of my favourite vegetables but it’s not all that often that you see it in the shops; as far as our large root vegetable needs are catered for by the supermarkets, the swede seems to take pride of place. On spotting some handsome specimens in Plymouth’s covered market however, I made sure to take one home. They have rugged and knobbly exteriors, but peel away the gnarled skin and cut one open to reveal pure white flesh inside and release gentle celery-like scent.
My partner however is somewhat wary of anything with the word celery in. Bravely, he nibbled through the celeriac mash that soaked up the gravy of a sausage casserole, but by the time I brought out this soup after getting caught in the rain on Sunday, I’d found a convert. Well, there were no complaints at least…
I always think the best soups are the simpler ones, combinations of a vegetable with a herb or spice – tomato and basil, carrot and coriander. Lots of freshly ground white pepper went into this soup, not because of the colour of the soup, but because I didn’t want the woody, camphor qualities of black pepper to overpower the light fragrance of the celeriac. It’s thick and warming, perfect for a winter’s day.
Soften the onion and garlic in olive oil over a low heat for 5 to 10 minutes with a pinch of salt. Add the diced celeriac and ground pepper to the pan and cook gently for a further 10 minutes. Pour in the water and simmer, covered with a lid, until the celeriac is tender, approximately 15-20 minutes. Remove from the heat before blending and seasoning to taste. Add milk or cream to loosen if the soup is too thick and reheat before serving with plenty of bread.