Celeriac and Hazelnut Soup

Celeriac and Hazelnut Soup 

My first choice of soup yesterday was actually German potato soup and I would have made it if Young Stephen had had chanterelles in stock. The first time I ever saw these mushrooms was when I was a teenager on holiday in Normandy. The family I was staying with brought me out to pick mushrooms and I was astonished to discover that this bright yellow fungus was edible. As far as I can remember, the chanterelles were cooked in an omelette.

Anyway, I brought my copy of The Soup Book with me to Stephen's. His assistant "Marek" apologised for not having any chanterelles (I think they had dried ones), so I whipped out the book to find a different recipe. Don't ask me why I thought of celeriac. I reminded Marek about when I talked to him about tomato borscht (see my blog of 2nd July 2011) and showed him the recipe. (I wonder how many other customers show him their recipe books.) By this time Stephen had appeared and told me that when all the Ireland football team supporters go to Poland next year, they'll be staying with Marek's mother and she'll be cooking them all borscht!

Back to the celeriac and hazelnut soup. The recipe is by Sophie Grigson, daughter of Jane Grigson. The ingredients include shelled hazelnuts (I had just about enough in a packet in my cupboard), a medium or large celeriac, an onion, long-grain or pudding rice, chicken stock, lemon juice and cream. Sophie recommends making the effort to brew your own stock as the flavour of the celeriac and hazelnuts is not "domineering" enough to disguise any shortcomings. I was down to my last pint of home-made chicken stock, so I had to top it up with stock from a cube. Sorry, Sophie.

This was a fiddly recipe in that I had to roast and skin the hazelnuts before preparing the soup.Also, dicing celeriac requires some muscle. I then sweated the celeriac, onion, rice and hazelnuts as directed before pouring in half of the stock. When these ingredients were tender, I had to whizz them in the blender. Not my favourite task and as I hadn't checked that seal was in place, there was some leakage. Five minutes of grumbling later and I was ready to go again. I added in the remaining stock but the soup was very thick and gloopy. I reheated it, adding lemon juice and cream, and it spluttered vigorously in the pot. The spouse, younger offspring and I ate the soup for our dinner. It was very tasty. I liked the nutty texture and the sweetness of the hazelnuts which overpowered the taste of the celeriac. A spoonful of creme fraiche as suggested by the spouse was a tangy contrast to the hazelnuts. I am not sure that I would bother making this soup again, but if I did I would use a smaller celeriac and/or more stock.

Bee is for Balm

I first mentioned bee balm in this blog on the 22nd May 2011. I didn't expect to be writing about it today as I had intended to find a poem about bees. But, as I looked at the bookshelves, Andrea Wulf's The Brother Gardeners: Botany, Empire and the Birth of an Obsession caught my eye. This is not book I would have chosen myself (it was a book group choice) but I am pleased that I own a copy and pleased that it is a hardback. The jacket and the colour plates alone make it worth the money! Bee balm is referred to by its Latin name Monarda didyma:
"The clump-forming perennial Monard didyma - parent of most monardas today - began its English life in [the English botanist Peter Collinson's] garden. The common name is Oswego tea because [the American botanist John Bartram] had found this bright scarlet flower near Oswego on his expedition to the Iroquois Confederacy in 1743."
And I'll leave it at that.

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