In culinary terms, winter equals soup. It should be the law or something. I honestly can't tell you, because really I'm not quite sure myself, how a bowl of what is basically a seasoned vegetable puree can evoke such rapturous adoration, such a sense of comfort and such an amazing flavour. A big pan of soup has been prominent feature of a winter lunchtime for many years in our family but it's not often that a new flavour infiltrates it's way into the ranks of our familiar favourites such as butternut squash, leek and potato or broccoli. But this soup I will definitely be making time and time again.
I wasn't even going to blog this recipe, because in all honesty I wasn't sure what to expect. The recipe seemed too simple to herald any promise of greatness. I certainly wasn't expecting what I tasted when I first took a spoonful - a smooth, creamy soup, starting with a burst of mild citrus flavour then becoming rich and earthy from the celeriac, with spikes of minty-aniseed fennel. The orange zest is an absolutely inspired addition to this soup, the recipe for which is taken from Veg, by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. It's a book that I genuinely love, crammed full of creative, inspiring and tasty recipes and currently only £5 (what?!?) on Amazon. I served this soup with some left over celeriac that I cubed and roasted in olive oil until browned and cooked through. The recipe suggests serving with crème fraîche, which I think personally might be too much creaminess as the celeriac makes this soup delightfully creamy all on it's own. Frankly, even if you just pour it, pain and unadorned and piping hot into the largest bowl you have and slurp it with a tablespoon, it will probably taste just as delicious.
Fennel and Celeriac Soup (with orange zest)
Taken from Veg, by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall
1 medium onion, sliced
2 tbsp olive or rapeseed oil
2 fennel bulbs, trimmed and sliced
½ a medium celeriac, peeled and cubed
vegetable stock (you can of course make your own, but if you have a life you want to get on with, I suggest using this - it has no nasty preservatives, artificial flavourings etc and isn't too saltly)
zest of 1 orange
salt and pepper
In a large saucepan, heat the olive over a medium heat and add the onion. Cook it gently for a few minutes before adding in the fennel and celeriac. Cover the pan and leave the contents to sweat for about 10 minutes.
Now add the vegetable stock - start off by adding 500 ml, and it that doesn't quite cover all the vegetables, add a little more. Simmer for about 15 minutes, or basically until all the veg is soft and tender.
Blend the soup until smooth, making sure all the fibres from the fennel are throughly blended, then add in the orange zest and some salt and pepper little by little, tasting as you go to make sure everything is seasoned and flavoured correctly. Finally, adjust the texture - it the soup is too thick, simply add a little more stock.