Well January is doing a great job of kicking all our asses isn’t. After a lovely break for Christmas I was all set to start back posting last week and then I woke to the terrible news that David Bowie had died and I just wanted to climb back in to bed, pull the duvet snug around me and listen to all his albums. By the end of the week, having just started to get used to a Bowieless world I clicked on a cryptic tweet teasing that something else horrible had happened only to be brought to the Guardian obituary for Alan Rickman and again the strong urge to just be done with the day hit me.
There isn’t much you can do when two of your heroes, crushes who have lasted from teen years to adulthood, two men whose voices you recognise at the first word they utter have passed away other than allow yourself a good cry, find sustenance in the treasure trove of work they left behind and eat something comforting that requires little effort.
I received two lovely cookbooks for Christmas and one of them is Nigel Slaters Notes from the Larder which is one of the most comfortable cook books to sit and read. You can hear hushed tones in every word. The recipes are sorted by month and trying to be seasonal I chose to cook the first soup in the January section which was a Celeriac and Bacon soup. Once a difficult and pricey vegetable to find, celeriac is now easy to source and I found mine in Aldi for €1.49, a bargain given the long lean month that is January. This soup is warming, flavoursome and has an interesting texture due to the addition of wholegrain mustard. I adjusted the recipe slightly to use shallots instead of onions as and a packet of diced pancetta instead of smoked bacon as that is what I had to hand and one of my 2016 kitchen resolutions is to use up every last scrap of food I can before going grocery shopping! I got two hearty dinner portions from this soup with enough left over to freeze for three lunches.
Celeriac & Bacon Soup from Nigel Slaters, Notes from the Larder
One good thick slice of butter
4 large shallots or 2 medium onions, peeled and chopped
125 grams of smoked bacon cubed or 1 x 100 gram packet of pre diced pancetta
800grams of celeriac (one average sized celeriac was 830 grams unpeeled), peeled and coarsely grated. I used a regular box grater for this.
500ml of chicken stock, homemade if you have it, I did not so I used 2 Gluten Free stock cubes dissolved on 500 ml of hot water
Fresh Thyme leaves, about 2 teaspoons. I keep my thyme in a box in the freezer and the cold causes the leaves to fall off the stalk keeps them fresh, it is the only way to keep thyme.
1 litre of water
4 teaspoons of wholegrain mustard
A good handful of chopped fresh parsley
Double Cream, optional
• Melt the butter in a large heavy bottomed pot over a medium heat.
• Add the chopped shallots or onions and cook until soft and translucent , about 10 to fifteen minutes.
• Add the bacon or pancetta and cook until the fat has rendered and the bacon is golden and starting to crisp
• Stir in the grated celeriac and the thyme
• Pour over the chicken stock and the water , raise the heat and bring to the boil
• Reduce the heat, cover the pot and allow the soup to simmer for 30 minutes
• Remove the lid and stir in the mustard and the parsley, check for seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste, allow the soup to simmer uncovered for a further five minutes
• Use and immersion blender to liquidise the soup. If you don’t have one of these handy gadgets then use your blender and blitz the soup and few ladles at a time, taking care not to splatter yourself or your kitchen with molten soup.
• Now is the time to add a few tablespoons of double cream however the soup has a silky texture and doesn’t really need it.
Serve with the best Gluten Free bread you can find and if you aren’t celiac with some good crusty bread while watching Truly Madly Deeply for the umpteenth time or while listening to your favourite David Bowie tune