Eaten raw, the crunchy, nutty-sweet flavour of fresh celery hearts can brighten up many a salad or, cut lengthways into sticks, offer a refreshing hand-to-mouth snack when loaded up with a creamy dip.
However, I think celery really comes into it’s own when it’s cooked and transformed into something altogether more stylish, such as silky smooth celery soup.
This Cream of Celery Soup is intensely savoury and the very thing to keep out the winter chill. Using the outer stems from a large head of Cook’s Celery stripped bare of fibrous stringy bits, this sophisticated soup is the prettiest shade of pale apple green and so unctuous that if you closed your eyes, you could be forgiven for thinking you’re eating a cream of chicken soup rather than vegetables!
I buy whole heads of celery because I prefer to prepare it myself. I use the outer stalks for cooking and the more tender inner stalks for eating raw. Usually, I buy organic celery for flavour but for this recipe I purchased some Limited Selection Cook’s Celery from Waitrose because it looked so fresh and green and, as the packaging said ‘grown for flavour’, there was no reason not to!
Celery is thought to have a calming effect on the central nervous system and to promote a good night’s sleep, so this soup might be just the right thing for a light supper. It works equally well for lunch, a heart warming snack or as a starter for an elegant dinner party.
Cream Of Celery Soup (4 servings) (V)
1 large leek, cleaned and finely sliced
1 medium onion, finely chopped
600g (6 cups) celery stalks, chopped
40g (3 tbsp) butter
600 ml (2½ cups) vegetable stock (made with Marigold Organic Bouillon Powder)
200 ml (⅞ cup) whole milk
60 ml (¼ cup) double cream
½ tsp nutmeg
1-2 tsp sea salt and freshly milled black pepper
In a large pan melt the butter over a low heat.
To clean the leeks, trim the roots and inedible parts off the leek, then slit it up one side and fan it out under a running cold tap to make sure there's no soil left lurking between the leaves. Cut it in half lengthways, then in half again before slicing it across into thin pieces.
To prepare the celery, cut the top and bottom off the celery sticks, wash off any dirt, then thinly peel off any stringy bits from the outside of the stalks with a potato peeler before chopping into smallish pieces
When you've chopped the celery, onion and leeks, add them to the pan. Stir well, to evenly coat the vegetables with butter, then cover them with a circle of baking parchment or greaseproof paper - make sure the paper reaches the sides of the pan and push it down so it sits directly on top of the vegetables (this helps to keep the steam in, so the vegetables are less likely to brown) Cook very gently for about 15 minutes until the vegetables are translucent and soft. Do not let them brown.
Add the vegetable stock. Bring to simmering point, cover once more and cook gently for a further 10 minutes, or until the vegetables are really tender. Take the pan off the heat and add the milk.
Puree the soup by blending it in batches, then return to the pan and stir in the cream. Season with salt, pepper and freshly grated nutmeg.
Bring the soup back to the boil. Re-check the seasoning and adjust if necessary.
Just before serving, roughly chop the reserved celery leaves and sprinkle on top of the soup.
Carbohydrate 16g Protein 4g - per serving