Winter appears to have got the jump on Autumn, meaning that I'm turning to the soup pan and the double cream extra-early this year.
I love celeriac: its gnarly dreadlocks make me smile, but something about its fragrant, creamy flesh speaks to my inner vampire. Watch the coriander here - a little warmth is all that's wanted.
For four servings:
1 small celeriac, peeled and roughly diced
1 large potato, peeled and diced
1 carrot, peeled and diced
1 shallot, peeled and chopped
1 leek, washed and thinly sliced
1½ pints of chicken stock
A good handful of bacon lardons or pancetta cubes
A clove of garlic
Quarter to half a teaspoon of ground coriander
Two or three good-sized sprigs of thyme
A thick slice of butter
Salt and pepper
Set the stock warming.
In a large saucepan, melt the butter in a glug of olive oil. When it begins to foam, add the celeriac, potato, carrot, shallot and leek and stir well to coat. Turn the heat right down, put the sprigs of thyme on top and cover. Allow to sweat very gently for fifteen to twenty minutes.
Meanwhile, heat a small frying pan and add the bacon. Peel and halve the garlic clove, removing the root, then cut into chunks and add to the bacon. Cook till the bacon fat is breaking down and beginning to crisp up and the garlic is browned.
Remove the garlic and discard, then drain the bacon with a slotted spoon.
Take the thyme sprigs out of the veg pan and strip the leaves, adding these back to the pan along with the bacon. Stir in the ground coriander and the stock, then bring to the boil. Now turn the heat down again and simmer gently, covered, for twenty minutes until the celeriac is very tender, checking the seasoning midway.
Cool a little then reserve some of the chunky vegetables. Blend the rest of the soup (a bit of cheese could go in, here, but watch the saltiness) then add the reserved vegetables and a swirl of double cream. Reheat, checking the seasoning again, and serve with crusty bread.