I hustled around the produce market as quickly as possible, grabbing cauliflower, onions, oranges. The temperature outside was below freezing and the market where I shop is a sort of damp concrete bunker with an open garage-style door across the front. If anything, it was even colder inside than it was outside in the weak sunshine. I just wanted to fill my basket and get out, before my numb fingers fell completely off.
From the next row over, I heard a woman’s voice, raised just slightly in a pleasant teacher’s tone: “That? It’s celeriac!” Then, apparently in response to a murmured question, “Oh, it’s wonderful. You can do all sorts of things with it.”
I had wanted to try making a celeriac soup for a while now, actually. I rounded the corner, unabashedly eavesdropping. I saw that the woman was a fellow shopper who had gathered a small, interested audience around her as she pointed at the gnarled, knobby, brown root balls tumbled in a cardboard box. They were far from beautiful.
“You can grate them up to make a salad, or mash them just like potatoes, or add them to soup. You have to peel off the outside, then it’s just a white root vegetable in there…”
The little group dispersed, and I pawed through the box of homely celeriac, selecting an impressive specimen about the size of a football.
I started my soup in the usual way of creamed vegetable soups, with a solid base of sautéed onions, broth, and white wine. To add a little tang to the mild celery-like flavor of the celeriac, I threw in some grated ginger and a touch of buttermilk. The result was a smooth soup with a light green color and a surprisingly refreshing taste. Unlike potato-based soups, it is thick without being starchy.
At this time of year, a thick, creamy soup is welcome. A creamy soup that fills and warms the tummy but also holds hint of spring in its bright flavor is priceless.
This makes about six servings, or keeps well in the refrigerator for several days of lunches.
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 1 stalk celery, thinly sliced
- 4 cloves garlic, sliced
- 1 tsp fresh ginger, grated
- 1 large celeriac (about ¾ lb), peeled and chopped into ½ inch cubes
- 6 cups stock (chicken or vegetable)
- 1 cup white wine
- 1 tsp salt
- pepper to taste
- ¼ to ½ cup buttermilk
Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan. Add onion and celery, cook over medium heat until softened but not browned. Add garlic and ginger and continue cooking for a few more minutes. Add potato, celeriac, stock and wine. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, until celeriac is very soft–up to 45 minutes. Process in blender or with immersion blender. Add salt and pepper to taste, then add buttermilk gradually, tasting as you go. The finished soup should be creamy and slightly tangy. Serve with a dollop of crème fraiche or a swirl of olive oil, if desired.