Celeriac and Chestnut Soup with Celeriac Crisps
Celeriac comes in difficult sizes for a recipe for four people, so I have used two small ones, which will make enough for everyone to have seconds. Feel free to make the soup the day before and reheat it.
The celeriac crisps can also be made the day before, left to cool and then kept in a lidded plastic box overnight. If you are short of time, Kettle Chips parsnip or sweet potato crisps are a good substitute.
I have used chives to garnish the soup because it needs a little colour, but if you have a few celery leaves, they would be a delightful finishing touch.
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You will also need a deep-fat fryer, or a wok or a large, deep saucepan, part-filled with the vegetable oil, and a cooking thermometer.
Peel the celeriac and trim off any dirty bits near the root. Then begin by making the celeriac crisps. With a vegetable peeler (the type with a horizontal blade is best for this), cut large shavings, as thinly as possible, from the top to the bottom of one of the celeriac - you will need about 5 oz (150 g). Chop the remaining celeriac into approximately 11/4 inch (3 cm) chunks and set these aside for the soup.
Heat the oil in the deep-fat fryer, wok or saucepan to 310F, 160C or until a small cube of bread turns golden in 45 seconds. This is the ideal temperature: any lower and the crisps will absorb the oil; any higher and they'll brown too much before they crisp. Fry the celeriac shavings in two batches, making sure the oil comes back up to temperature before you cook the second batch. Each batch will take around 6-8 minutes, turn the shavings halfway through the cooking time so they brown evenly.
When the celeriac crisps are ready, they'll be golden brown and the oil will have stopped bubbling almost completely. Transfer the crisps to a plate lined with absorbent kitchen paper as they are done, season lightly wiht salt and set aside in a dry place.
For the soup, sweat the onion in a large saucepan with the butter for 5 minutes until soft but not coloured. Then, add the chopped celeriac and the chestnuts, pour over 2 pints (1.2 litres) of water and bring to the boil.
Simmer, uncovered, for 25-30 minutes or until the celeriac is soft to the point of breaking up, topping up the water if it evaporates to below the level of the celeriac. Then, add the cream and bring back to the boil. Remove from the heat and liquidise the soup, in batches, until totally smooth. If it is too thick, just add a little hot water. As there is no stock you need to be pretty generous with the seasoning, so season really well with salt, black pepper and freshly grated nutmeg. Set aside until needed.
To serve, heat the soup and milk separately. Then froth the milk with a whisk or hand blender.
Ladle the soup into warm bowls and spoon a little of the frothed milk over the top of each bowl, like a cappuccino. Sprinkle with chives (or celery leaves) and a little freshly grated nutmeg and serve with the celeriac crisps.
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This is yet another favourite and blissfully easy bread, which is crunchy and crusty on the outside and soft and squidgy within.
This is perfect for winter, when celery and celeriac are at their height of seasonality, having had a good frost to intensify their flavour. Serve with crusty bread.
Celeriac is a winter root vegetable that all cooks should be aware of as it has a wonderful flavour and lends itself beautifully to soups, bakes, gratins and, here, mashed with other ingredients.
The four 'stars' in this case are celeriac, carrot, cabbage and spring onion. The result is a very crunchy fresh-tasting coleslaw that can be made the day before, if you cover it with clingfilm and keep it in the refrigerator until needed.
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