Ah, soup. The great nourisher. It's what I always turn to when I'm cooking for just me.
I'm not sure if I enjoy the ritual tearing of the bread most, or slathering it with unsalted butter that hasn't been out of the fridge long enough. Perhaps it's the dunking of buttery bread into the scaldingly hot soup, watching the butter pool, meltingly into the soup.
But it can be a thick, bolstering soup, like Jerusalem Artichoke or Gumbo that you swig from a soup mug or a thin broth that makes you feel like a recovering convalescent and that you sip daintily from a teaspoon like some kind of Jane Austen heroine.
Soup can be made by anyone with any kind of fridge situation. The soup that I am writing about today was made with very little in the by now cliched store cupboard.
I had no onions left. No onions in the house is a very poor state of affairs and a state that no one should ever be in. Thank goodness I had a couple of rapidly shrivelling leeks left. There was no carrots, no peppers, just a bunch of celery. So, with the celery and leeks in mind, I flipped through Jane Grigson's Vegetable Book. Straight away I am enticed by the Celery and Blue Cheese Soup recipe although I could have gone for Celery and Dill too.
This is my entry for the coming Weekend Herb Blogging being held by Ed at Tomato. And I promise, this is my last blogging event for a while (except for a Valentines one coming up soon, but when else am I going to use heart shaped cutters and sprinkles?).
I modified the recipe to suit my distinct lack of onions and produced a nutritious, wholesome and delicious Celery, Leek and Blue Cheese Soup.
I feel sorry for the celery plant because it seems to have so many people that want to bully it. It's not the fault of this graceful, pale green plant that it's a bit stringy. That's what vegetables peelers are for! And besides, once you cook celery, it loses that strong, nutty, herbal flavour and becomes tender hearted, delicate and as generous of flavour as you could wish from any vegetable. It makes stews sublime and I feel lost without celery in the fridge.
An amusing anecdote that occured during the making of this soup: I wanted to use up some of my chicken stock that I always have bags of in the freezer. However, due to the colour of the stock, it also resembles stewed apples and frozen egg whites. With this in mind, you would think that I labelled the bags up, but no. I'm lucky if I can find my left hand in the kitchen sometimes, let alone a pen.
Anyway, I eventually find a bag of what looks like it might be chicken stock (although it looks more like frozen custard) and I plunge this frozen iceberg of yellowy mystery liquid into a pan of water and set about thawing it. So, I'm chopping the celery and the leek when I glance over at the pan with the 'stock' in it and see that there is a strange smell emanating from it, and the water seems to be incredibly cloudy and a bit starchy. Closer examination revealed that what I had thought was stock, was in fact leftover mashed potato from our Turkey Meal. Crap.
So, for this particular recipe, I would recommend using Chicken Stock Cubes....as I had to.
CELERY, LEEK AND BLUE CHEESE SOUP serves 4
1 Head of Celery, roughly chopped into small pieces
2 Leeks, stripped of its coarse outer leaves and cut into rings
Salt and Pepper
1.5 Litres Hot Chicken Stock (made from cubes or fresh, but not mashed potato)
40g Blue Cheese (to taste)
Melt the butter in a large saute pan and throw in the chopped celery and leek, making sure to coat them throughly in the butter.
Turn the heat down to low and put the lid on. Leave to sweat down for at least 20 minutes.
Add the flour and stir until has absorbed all the butter and coated the vegetables. This will thicken the soup.
Pour over the hot stock and stir well to disperse any lumps.
Simmer gently for another 30 minutes or until the vegetables are tender and yield under a spoon.
Remove from the heat and crumble the blue cheese into the soup, stirring well to ensure that it melts.
Serve in bowls sprinkled with a bit more cheese and some chopped parsley (optional) and, of course, some bread and butter.