This recipe for celery and blue cheese soup straddles the transition from winter into summer.
It still can be the weather for warming soup (unfortunately!) but not the heavier rib-sticking, sustaining root vegetable ones of winter. This is fresher and lighter.
Celery has a fairly mild flavour and makes delicious soup – particularly if it is enhanced with a little blue cheese.
As it tends to be stringy, and to ensure a velvety smooth soup, it is well worth sieving the soup after liquidising.
While on the subject of liquidising any soup, this does not work in a food processor. It just swishes all the liquid around, not properly pulverising the solids.
A blender, liquidiser or hand-held ‘wand’ is much the best tool.
This soup is also delicious cold, although you might like to wait a while before contemplating such a thing. If serving cold, omit the butter when sweating the vegetables at the beginning. It is important not to boil the soup having added the cheese. Reheat to just under boiling point.
The blue cheese croutes turn this into a sustaining lunch or supper.
The blue cheese and walnut rarebits would be good with all manner of soups and also as a starter or lunch on their own – like bruschetta – with different toppings such as a mound of lightly dressed rocket; oven roast cherry tomatoes on the vine; tomato, basil and black olive salsa etc. Find lots more recipes in Jane’s book Make it Easy available from www.janelovett.com bookshops and Amazon. Follow Jane on Twitter @Jane_Lovett
CELERY AND BLUE CHEESE SOUP (serves 4-6):
1 head of celery
a knob of butter
1 large onion, roughly chopped
1heaped tbsp flour (or 1 medium sized potato, sliced)
850 ml (1½ pts) chicken or vegetable stock (or use 2 cubes)
salt and freshly ground black pepper
55g (2 oz) blue cheese (optional)
4 tbsp cream (optional)
1. Cut the root off the celery, wash the sticks and chop into chunks, leaves and all. (You may like to reserve a few leaves for decoration.) Heat a little olive oil and a small knob of butter in a saucepan, add the celery and onion, cover with a lid and cook gently for about 10 minutes until soft but not coloured.
2. Stir in the flour, add the stock, bring to the boil, season and simmer for 20 - 30 minutes, until the celery is very soft.
3. Liquidise the soup adding the blue cheese (if using) at the same time. Pass through a sieve and let down with a little water or stock if it is too thick. Add a grating of nutmeg (or a pinch of ground nutmeg) and check the seasoning. Stir in the cream and serve with Blue Cheese Rarebits.
The soup will sit happily in the fridge for up to three days. It also freezes beautifully.
For non-wheat eaters use a potato to thicken the soup instead of the flour.
Once the cheese has been added, don’t let the soup boil. When reheating bring up to just below boiling point.
Obviously home-made stock it the best if you have some handy, but if not, all the main supermarkets sell own brand stock in 500ml pouches which is a good alternative.
BLUE CHEESE RAREBITS (makes 8):
1 ciabatta loaf
110g (4 oz) creamy blue cheese
1 egg white
A few walnuts, roughly chopped
1. Preheat the oven to 220C/425F/Gas7, or turn the grill onto its hottest setting. Cut eight diagonal slices about 1 cm (½in) thick from the ciabatta loaf and spread these croutes out on a baking sheet.
2. In a small bowl break up the cheese with a fork until it is paste-like. Gradually add a little egg white, bit by bit, beating with the fork or a small whisk between each addition. There will be a few lumps which don’t matter at all. The mixture should be of spreadable consistency and quite loose, but not so loose that it runs over the edges of the croutes. You may not need all the egg white. Stir in the walnuts.
3. Divide the cheese mixture between the croutes and spread over, right to the edges. Cook in the oven or grill for five or so minutes, or until golden brown and bubbling. Serve with the soup.