I was feeling, oh so slightly under the weather as snow blew along beside the train to Amsterdam. I was heading off to a meeting with the Chair of KEA (Kiwi Expatriates Abroad) in The Netherlands and the portents were not good. The wind chill factor was arctic in nature, the sky was heavy with wet snow and frankly I just wanted to be back on that dry, summery Island of Waiheke composting happily and listening to the sound of the sea.
We were meeting at a previously untried cafe called Vinnies Deli on Haarlemmerstraat to talk about ideas, meetings, home and of course, food matters crept in just a morsel.
We walked in, decided what to order, liked the living room feel of the place, felt some Ottolenghi influences and settled down to a velvety soup of celeriac, fresh truffle and garlic croutons. Suddenly the day didn’t seem quite so dull, in fact it seemed full of promise. I came home and immediately started to try and re-create that delicious and heart warming soup. Although it wasn’t the same exactly, the recipe below made all the family very happy.
Celeriac is rather a plain, unglamorous root veggie but it has star quality. Go and try one now! It is apparently Hugh Fearnly-Whittingstall fav root veg of all time and can be used in heaps of ways, salads, coleslaws, gratins, mash and of course.. soup. And if you are in Amsterdam give Vinnies a try. We were both impressed both by the friendliness of the service, the homely lounge room touch and most important by the FOOD! The sourdough bread was excellent as well.
Celeriac Soup (for 4)
1 large celeriac bulb, peeled and cut roughly into cubes
1 large white onion, chopped finely
1 – 3 cloves of garlic depending one how much you like garlic
2-3 large floury potatoes, peeled and chopped in cubes similar in size to celeriac
I also had a stalk of asparagus, a bit of leek and some zucchini to use up so shoved that in as well. I think cauliflower would work as well.
1 litre at least, of a good stock (I made my own out of old veggie peelings and am organic stock cube)
100 mls of fresh cream (or low fat organic milk or you are off cream!)
favourite spices or herbs – cumin seeds, or a little sprig of thyme. Saffron would also be rather nice, I feel.
Fry the onions in a little butter and olive oil until translucent. Add in chopped garlic. I blended my soup a little with a hand blender but left a few lumps. It is entirely up to you, what consistency you like and you may find it good to add more milk, more stock etc to the finished product.
Add in the cubed celeriac, and potatoes plus the cummin seeds, fry until fragrant. Pour in stock and cover the vegetables. Simmer until the veggies are softly tender. Add more stock etc if needed and remove thyme sprigs. Add in the cream and simmer again for awhile, then you can either cool and blend in a food processor or use a hand blender, or just mash it up a bit with a potato masher. I served it all up just like Vinnies Deli with garlic croutons. I made these with left over crusts from club sandwiches I made for a school do. Bake the crusts with olive oil which has had crushed garlic added, season with salt and pepper and bake for about 10 minutes in a moderate oven until golden bread. Don’t you just love frugal food?
Now serve it up the family and ask them to guess what sort of soup it is… My family were at a loss and then I showed them the celeriac bulb. By the way the fussy family really did really like this soup, so try it out on the unbelievers (you know the veggie nay-sayers!).
If you want to make it really, really special, see if the ladies at the Portabella have a little spring truffle for a good price (I got a little spring truffle, there last week for around 7 euros). Now, here’s a fact I didn’t know – from the North African coast from Morocco to Egypt to the deserts of Iraq you can find truffles in the sand and while they are hugely expensive in Europe, a family in Basra may have quite a few of them hanging about. Experienced gatherers simply look for a mound in the sand and gently dig them up – thanks so much, my friend Basma, for telling me all about them.
I will leave you with a photo of the little cakes at Smith and Caugheys in Auckland, NZ and suggest you go to this blog to try out making some divine hotcross buns for Easter … I think you might just be tempted by these recipes from http://www.poiresauchocolat.net
And if you are in Amsterdam, you might just fancy one of these little morsels below, at Unlimited Delicious who currently have the best salty caramel chocs I have come across in The Netherlands (also on Haarlemmerstraat at no. 122)
Enjoy the Easter holidays by sitting at a table with family and friends, talking about things that matter and things that don’t….