The other day, I was reading about yet another fantastic dessert on David’s blog, and I was wondering if he ever published something with less than a million calories. Turns out he did: he had an intriguing recipe for celeriac soup. The idea grew in the backroom of my mind, and thanks to the fact that my fridge was almost empty, I ended up with a ‘let’s empty the fridge totally’ soup, which happened to be very good. It has a very complex flavour; if you don’t like slightly sour food I’d leave the apple out (I just love the acidic touch though).
I finished it off with yet another special effect: a trick I stole from Pietro Leemann, puffed rice. It is very simple and effective, and works wonders with any cream-textured soup.
Celeriac and apple soup with puffed rice
Ingredients (makes about three portions)
2 leeks, trimmed
4 small floury potatoes
quarter of a celeriac root
1 apple, slightly sour (eg russet, possibly a cooking apple)
1 2cm x 2cm piece of smoked bacon or pancetta
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper (white, possibly)
a small handful of red camargue rice (also wild rice or black rice would work), uncooked (about 30gr)
1/2 tablespoon vegetable oil
smoked Maldon sea salt (optional)
Prepare the vegetables. Peel celeriac and potatoes and cut into 2×2 cm chunks. Trim leeks, cut in half lengthwise, clean under running water making sure you get rid of all the dirt between the leaves, and chop into 1 cm thick slices. Cube the pancetta. Heat a bit of olive oil in a heavy bottomed pan, add the pancetta cubes and let them release some of their fat, then add leeks and celeriac and brown slightly on a high heat. Add in the potatoes and apples cubes, a bay leaf, some salt and pepper. Stir well and cover with water. Bring to the boil, then cook for about 20 minutes on low heat, until all the vegetables are tender, but don’t overcook. You can also cook this is a pressure cooker for five minutes, which is what I did. Remove the bay leaf. Puree the soft vegetables and pancetta using a hand blender. Taste and adjust salt and pepper, and thin with a little water if it is too thick for your liking. Can be made ahead and reheated.
When you are nearly ready to serve, heat a heavy bottomed non stick pan over high heat. Add a splash of vegetable oil, the one you’d use for frying (I used groundnut). When it is very hot, but before it starts smoking, drop in a couple of rice grains. They should pop slightly open, like pop corn (they stay smaller though, they split more than popping). If they do, add the rest of the rice in the pot, cover and give it a good shake. Over the next five minutes the rice will pop and toast. Shake the pan now and again and if you have the feeling that they are not popping, put it back on the fire. Be careful not to burn them though.
When most of the rice has popped, place the hot soup in bowls, dress with a generous tablespoon of popped rice, drizzle with a bit of olive oil and scatter with smoked salt. If you are using good quality salt like eg Maldon, the flakes will stay whole over the oil, making a very nice effect, like cristals.