Or how subscription to an organic vegetable box, a dose of insomnia, and an impending nodermeet led to soup-making

Jude was rummaging through the vegetable box: 'Ella, what's this?' The alien-like mud-coated vegetable to which Jude was referring, with sprouting green top and tentacle roots, was a celeriac. Allegedly. It was hard to tell, under all the mud. For various reasons, the celeriac never made it on to our plates that week. Then it was joined by a less muddy but more rooty friend. So we had two celeriacs.

I suffer from insomnia periodically. Rather than lay awake and feel frustrated, I get up. Normally, I clean. Well, on this occasion, I'd virtually decontaminated the flat and still I wasn't sleepy. I spied the green tips of one of the celeriac twins peeping over the vegetable box. I had vague plans to serve soup to the noders who gathered at the flat before we embarked on the drinking that was the precursor to the fried breakfast. Hmmm...celeriac soup? It seemed like a good idea.

So, I washed and I chopped and I fried and I seasoned and I simmered and I blitzed. It wasn't bad. It even got me to sleep for a few hours. The following evening, noders seemed to approve. But it needed something else. The flavour wasn't round enough. I was slightly at a loss: celeriac has such a delicate flavour that I was afraid of overpowering it. The idea came to me when I was cleaning out the fruit bowls: chestnut. Complementary, delicate flavours, one sweet, the other savoury, both in season at the same time. Now I just had to wait for another celeriac in the vegetable box!

Last Friday, another alien bundle of roots and greenery appeared. Thus, Jude and I were able to enjoy celeriac and chestnut soup for lunch on Saturday. The soup was given the seal of approval: I was told that it could come again for lunch.

Ingredients, for four

  • 20 chestnuts
  • 1 medium onion, chopped medium-fine
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium sized celeriac (about 1 1/2lb, or 750g, with roots and greenery, but no mud), peeled and chopped into 1" (2.5cm) cubes
  • Vegetable stock (say around 2 pints, or 1 litre)
  • 1 tspn cinnamon
  • 1 tspn cumin
  • 2 tbsp sherry
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Plain yoghurt, to serve


Your first task is to deal with the chestnuts. Okay, so you could use canned, pureed chestnuts, or even frozen ones. But when celeriac is in season, so are chestnuts: use fresh ones. Please. Nick off the bottoms with a sharp knife, place them in a pan, cover them with water, and bring to the boil. Boil them for between five and ten minutes. Drain, allow them to cool, and then peel. I'm afraid that the inner, papery skin needs to come off, too. You'll probably have to slide a knife under the skins, wriggle it a bit, and then resort to using your nails. Be careful. Chop the nuts into quarters and set aside.

Heat the oil in a stockpot or a large pan. You know, one that you use for making soup. Fry off the onion until it softens and begins to go translucent. Then add the celeriac, and fry that until it too begins to go soft around the edges. Tip in the chestnuts, season with salt and pepper, and the spices. Stir things about a bit.

Now you get to add some hot vegetable stock. I'm sorry, I didn't measure it out. The vegetables were covered, and there was some liquid to spare. Reckon on about two pints. If in doubt, go for less than you think, you can always thin it down. However, I did measure out the sherry (nothing too sweet). It was two tablespoons. Add that. Stir. Cover. Allow to cook. It will need at least 30 minutes over a low-medium flame until the chestnuts and celeriac are completely softened. You'll be able to squash chunks of vegetable with a wooden spoon and not much effort. Now you can liquidise it!

After you've liquidised it, check the seasoning and adjust accordingly. If you've made it a bit too thick, thin with some boiling water. Serve with a dollop of yoghurt, and enjoy!

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