Friday, 3 April 2015

Celeriac and Caramelised Apple Soup

Now in years gone by the mere mention of the word Celery would put me in a cold sweat. My arch nemesis and number one of hated foods, it seemed to crop up all over the place whenever I least expected it. Many a salad was sent back because it made an unwanted appearance. Italian restaurants, in particular, seemed to make it their one objective in life to slip microchipped celery into their salads requiring many many minutes of careful extraction before I was prepared to try a mouthful. But yes, there was always one micro-morsal that I would miss, filling my mouth with its unwanted flavour.

Now time has moved on and fashion changes quickly in the food world. Celery does not seem to be used in salads anymore unless you are unlucky enough to stumble upon a restaurant still stuck in the 80s (and yes they still exist in the UK especially some Pubs !).  OK, I stumble from Pubs frequently enough but thats another story......

My tastes have gradually changed. A revelation to me was how fantastic celery is when you juice it. I actually use it in my morning juices every day! Cooked celery, ha ha, is now just another ingredient. However, as a raw item on my plate I still would rather pass.

My old hatred of the celery caused me, until recently, to give a wide berth to its related cousin Celeriac. Over the last few years this root vegetable seems to have become popular with Celebrity Chiefs. In fact Nigel Slater gave 12 pages to it in his splendid book Tender.

I took the plunge a few weeks ago and had Celeriac and Apple soup at the wonderful Topstack Cafe. It was served with a walnut pesto topping and a savory scone. It was wonderful and got me thinking perhaps I can knock one up. Well on a wet Bank Holiday weekend here we are!!

  • 50g butter
  • 1 celeriac (peeled / cubed)
  • 2 medium potatoes (peeled / cubed)
  • 1 leek (sliced)
  • 1 medium white onion (peeled / chopped)
  • 1 Garlic Clove (sliced)
  • 1 litre of vegetable stock (I used Carrot and Parsnip juice)
  • 2 eating apples (peeled / quartered - I used Braeburn)

Caramelise apples in 25g butter for 5 minutes. Reserve. This process provides a great background sweetness to the soup. Alternatively, miss out this step and slice the apples thinly adding towards the end of the simmering for a more delicate taste.

Gently sweat the rest of the ingredients in 25g butter for 10 minutes. Season as required.

Add the stock and bring to boil, them simmer for 20 minutes. Add the reserved apples after 10 minutes.

Blend and let cool for freezing. Perhaps reheat a portion for serving if hungry.

The soup might seem a bit thick after blending. I added some filtered water and reblended.

I would always recommend a topping with this soup to cut across the creamy sweetness. I used crushed walnuts drizzled with extra virgin olive oil.  Other toppings you could consider are Walnut and Pesto, roasted hazelnuts and parsley or fried sage, or even an orange and lime flavoured cream!

Thursday, 2 April 2015

Chocolate Biscotti

I enjoy reading the fantastic food related blog of David Lebovitz. His mixture of recipes, travelogue and reviews of Paris eateries and delis is always entertaining. This chocolate biscotti recipe is based on on of his recipes.

I have been making these for several months now with a few tweaks along the way too suit my tastes. These are perfect with coffee and keep for upto 4 weeks in an air tight container. I keep mine in the kitchen with the crackers and biscuits.

I may be a bit 'OCD' but I always like to get all the ingredients out on the kitchen table prior to starting. Many a bake has been delayed for a quick trip to the shops for something I thought I had but..... well I'm sure you've been there as well!!

  • 240g flour
  • 75g cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp fine sea salt
  • 3 free range large eggs
  • 180g sugar
  • 1tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract
  • 120g almonds; blanched, roasted and coarsely chopped
  • 120g dark cooking chocolate (80g 56% and 40g 70%)

The amount of 70% dark chocolate you use depends upon how bitter you want the biscotti to taste. I find using about a third of 70% gives a more complex flavour without the bitter taste. I use Green and Blacks for the 70% and LIDL Fin Carre for 52%.

Blanch almonds by adding boiling water for one minute. Rinse in cold water and skins come off very easily.

Roast almonds at 180C for 8-10 minutes.

Coarsely chop the almonds and chocolate. I put the chocolate in fridge prior to use as it is easier to use.

In a small bowl sift the flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt.

In a larger bowl beat the 3 eggs, sugar, and extracts. Add dry mixture from smaller bowl and mix with spatula or similar. As the mix comes together add the chopped almonds and chocolate. The final mix should be on the dry side although this is dependant upon size of eggs.

Divide mixture into 2 and shape into logs.  Place on parchment lined baking tray. Gently flatten tops of logs.

Bake for 25 minutes.

Remove from oven and leave to cool for 15 minutes.

Move logs onto cutting board and use serrated knife to diagonally cut 1/2 inch wide slices.

You should get between 30-37 slices.

Put slices on baking tray and return to oven for 20-30 minutes. Turn the biscotti over half way through so each side is baked.  I tend to use 24 minutes for a slightly soft texture and 26 for more of a crunch.

Remove from tray to cooling rack.

Always great with espresso or coffee of your choice. Enjoy!