A Vegetable Jewel in the Crown:
Fenland Celery and Fenland Celery Soup Recipe
Celery, a simple vegetable, but with the unfortunate reputation of being served (stuck in a water-glass) as an accompaniment to those 70’s cheese board protagonists, Edam and Danish Blue, with cream crackers and a glass if Mateus Rose. But, celery can be so much better than this, although I am NOT saying that is doesn’t make a perfect partner to a large wedge of vintage Cheddar cheese, with a few fresh walnuts maybe. It’s yeasty, savoury taste works well in salads, soups, stews, casseroles and ragouts, whilst one of my favourite recipes uses it in cheese scones with surprisingly delectable results. Now, I have to own up here, when I was younger I wasn’t a lover of celery, it was that practice of serving limp and stringy stems of celery alongside dodgy, vacuum packed cheese that put me off! However, I am an avid lover of celery now and especially Fenland Celery.
I am glad that I am a fan of celery now, as it was the main ingredient in the recipe that came up for Dom’s Random Recipe challenge; this month Dom has allowed us to pick our own book, and then randomly open it to select our recipe. My random page showed several recipes, so Malcolm my husband was asked to choose one of them for my cooking challenge! It’s weird though, as I have made celery soup for one of Dom’s Random Recipe challenges before, but, I wasn’t too disappointed, as today was a raw, bitter February day, just the weather for soup which went down very well with some home-made bread I had made in the morning. The book that I picked is a perennial favourite and one that I often turn to for homely British recipes, “The Complete Farmhouse Kitchen Cookbook” , it was published to accompany a Yorkshire television series about twenty odd years ago. It’s a fabulous book, and although there are no colour photos, I love reading through it, almost like a novel! It has rather quaint and old-fashioned line drawings, which just adds to the culinary mystique of the book…….
Back to celery again; early types of celery were very bitter and it was mostly regarded as a medicinal plant from classical times through to the Middle Ages, when it was used to treat anxiety, insomnia, rheumatism, gout, toothache and arthritis.Around the 15th century, when it was known as ‘smallage’, a sweeter, more tender variety was developed and it began to be enjoyed as a vegetable in its own right. Then, during the 19th century farmers in the East Anglian Fens began to harvest celery around September, which they prolonged into the colder months (to get a better price) by covering it with soil – ‘earthing up’ – to protect it from frost. Celery’s popularity grew during Victorian times and it became a traditional salad vegetable to accompany the cheese board served at the end of meals over the Christmas period. However the season for Fenland winter celery field to plate was by its nature short and unpredictable, and people wanted more of it – for longer. About 50 years ago, varieties were introduced that could be blanched without being earthed up, by planting the rows close together.
They were also resistant to bolting to seed, so could be planted earlier. This paler ‘white’ celery was then available from July but the taste and shelf life of the old varieties had largely been lost. But, its reputation was further damaged by poor tasting celery imported in the winter season, as I mentioned earlier on. Over the last 25 or so years new varieties and growing techniques have been developed to achieve the desired ‘salad eating’ taste and appearance, selecting varieties with the best flavour and growing characteristics. Fashions change in food as in everything else and green celery became more popular. The greener varieties related to the old fenland varieties won through this selection process hands down and by happy coincidence they also had better keeping qualities. So green celery, now available all year round, is a direct descendant of the traditional celery. (Information courtesy of: http://fenlandcelery.com/)
After all that celery information, back to my soup recipe; I changed the recipe slightly by adding celery salt and some celery seeds, and I didn’t use any flour either, as I am not a lover of flour as a thickener in soups. But, the idea was based on the random recipe I picked, and I have to say that this recipe is a little stunner! There is just a little milk in it, and the celery certainly sings very loudly, helped along by the celery salt and celery seeds. We had this soup today for lunch, and it was truly delicious in a sweet, creamy and savoury sense, I could happily eat this soup for any occasion, whether it be a simple supper or for a formal meal. The recipe is below, and although the Fenland celery season has finished, do try this soup again in October, made with Fenland celery, just to see the difference it makes to the flavour. That’s all for today, have a wonderful evening, and I’ll see you tomorrow. Karen
Fenland Celery Soup
|Prep time||10 minutes|
|Cook time||50 minutes|
|Total time||1 hour|
|Meal type||Lunch, Snack, Soup, Starter|
|Misc||Child Friendly, Freezable, Pre-preparable, Serve Hot|
|Occasion||Christmas, Easter, Formal Party, Valentines day|
|By author||The Complete Farmhouse Cook Book|
- 1 medium head of Fenland or British Celery (trimmed and the branches finely chopped)
- 1 small onion, peeled and finely chopped
- 40g butter (I use salted butter)
- 750mls vegetable stock (I use Marigold Swiss vegetable bouillon powder)
- 1/2 pint of milk
- 1/4 teaspoon celery seeds
- celery salt
- white pepper
- some celery leaves, trimmed form the celery branches (for a garnish)
This velvety soup is like a bowl of celery essence and makes a fabulous dinner party dish for the soup course, as well as a hearty and warming soup for a family supper, when served with crusty bread and butter. Fenland celery, which is grown in the Fenlands of East Anglia, has a short season, from October to January; if you can get hold of it, do use it in this soup, as it has a sweet almost nutty flavour and is almost pure white. (I managed to get hold of two heads a month ago and it has kept very well in the garden shed, but, now is the time to use it!) It is also wonderful when served with a British cheeseboard, or in salads.
|Step 1||Chop the celery, leaving a few leaves for a garnish. Melt the butter in a saucepan and add the chopped celery to the pan along with the chopped onions. Stir well and then cover saucepan and cook for about 15 minutes. Add the stock with the celery seeds and some celery salt (to taste).|
|Step 2||Bring the soup up to a simmer, cover the saucepan with a lid and cook very gently for 20 to 25 minutes or until the vegetables are really tender. Purée the soup in a blender or with a hand-held immersion blender, return the blended soup to the pan and then stir in the milk. (you can leave some of the celery pieces whole if you prefer a chunkier textured soup)|
|Step 3||Bring the soup up to the boil before turning the heat right down, adjust the seasoning if necessary and then chop the reserved celery leaves and stir them into the soup as a garnish.|
What Kate Baked says
Celery soup is one of my favourite soup recipes- I have a family favourite that I make practically weekly in this cold chilly weather. But people always stare at me a little strangely when I say celery is my favourite soup!
Rachel K @MarmadukeS says
Couldn’t agree with you more – celery has to be one of my favourites too. Although mine isn’t very healthy as I have a tendency to dump in my own body weight of blue cheese!
Jude A Trifle Rushed says
Karen your recipe sounds super, but celery soup and I just do not get on! When I was a student and waitressing (I needed some beautiful shoes) the wine waiter knocked my arm and a whole bowl of celery soup went over a woman’s stunningly beautiful YSL dress! I was mortified and have always kept the soup at a distance!
I have this book sitting on my shelf at home and I love it!… I also adore celery soup, it’s so subtle a flavour but it really is wonderful and so good for you… very good if you suffer from arthritis too!… thanks so much for this wonderful entry and so fab that you’ve made celery soup before… that’s great! xx
Maya Russell says
Don’t think I’ve ever had celery soup! One to try. Thanks for the recipe.
Marie Clifton says
Ooh I’ll have to try making some celery soup. I love celery, never tried it as a soup though
Jen @ BlueKitchenBakes says
This soup looks lovely Karen, I’ve never tried celery soup before even though I love celery. This is despite the fact that my Grandma insists on serving it boiled to death along with boiled carrots and parsnip, other than that she’s a good cook.
Mark Whittaker says
I tried this and its fantastic. I love celery and actually find it really versatile. I quite often use it when I am adapting recipes for vegetarian fiends, as it holds its shape well and ads flavour. I always get a slight aniseed taste from it, though not sure if this is usual or just my warped taste buds
And here’s my starter for my anniversary dinner! Just need a pudding now!
Hayley Wells says
This is just what I’ve been looking for – I’ve managed to acquire rather a vast amount of celery after my online shop somehow went a bit crazy with the quantities and I desperately needed some inspiration for it! I love cooked celery, especially when it’s been poached in stock or in a meaty casserole, and I think the leaves have the most wonderful flavour. It’s so under-rated!
Tracy Nixon says
Great recipe thanks – will have to try!
Fiona Matters says
I’ve never tried celery soup but am all intrigued now. It looks lovely. Not a huge fan of celery but always keen to try something new!
Herbert Appleby says
and I always wondered what to do with the celery that doesn’t make it into the salad bowl in the first few days
Jayne Sullivan says
This looks delicious. So healthy !
tamalyn roberts says
its funny, i actually hate celerys but i love celery soup, thanks for the recipe, will try it out x
Ali Thorpe says
I love celery and I enjoy that subtle hint of its flavour in the back of casseroles and soups but I’ve never been tempted byu the idea of a full-on celery soup. However, this recipe may be the one that prompts me to give it a go!
Tracy Nixon says
Lovely idea – will print out to try! Thanks
Kate Williamson says
I love celery soup, it’s got such a unique taste
Just to let you know, this survives freezing very well!
Eleanor Wigmore says
This is very similar to a celery soup recipe I make when I have it leftover. I really like the deep savoury flavour. I also am not that keen on celery so not sure why I like the soup so much!!!
catherine corr says
This sounds fab!i bet a bit of blue cheese could be a naughty added extra!X
Clare Webb says
Celery is my favourite but I’ve never tried making soup with it. Will have to have a go!
Great idea from the lady above who suggested a little blue cheese! I shall make this again and crumble a little Stilton in just before serving! I can imagine that with a slice of cheese and sundried tomato loaf!
Alison Pearce says
perfect for winter!
Kevin Dooley says
This looks very good indeed.
Jen Harris says