experience romania

Rachel’s recipes: Celeriac velouté with crispy pancetta – an aphrodisiacal soup

First off let’s differentiate between “Celeriac” and “Celery”. Celeriac is the knobbly root vegetable of the species Apium Graviolens and Celery is the name given to the stalks of the same species. Now apparently (not having the greenest of fingers) some varieties are grown for their knobbly roots and some for the stalks. I personally associate Celery with a series of advertisements for “Philadelphia” cream cheese that featured the white goo spread on stringy celery sticks and Barbie doll women coyly purring “It is my birthday” as if a bit of cream cheese on a watery vegetable stick was as much excitement as they were allowed. I have also heard people say that the calories you burn chewing celery exceed those in the stuff, as if that were a good thing. I am (you might have guessed) not a fan of celery but celeriac…that is a whole different ball game.

Just as celery suggests denial and austerity celeriac suggests excess, enjoyment and seduction. Yes I know, seduction by celeriac seems a little far fetched but persevere…the recipe is worth it. Celeriac adds luscious creaminess, a hint of something slightly aniseedy and if generations of Romanians are to believed, it reaches the parts other root vegetables can’t. To benefit most from its legendary properties Romanians suggest eating it raw and certainly combined with apples, walnuts and carrots and a little mayonnaise in the style of a French remoulade – the Romanian “cruditati” salad is winsome. But with a little truffle oil added celeriac becomes a truly magical affair – the creamy celeriac giving great texture and the truffle oil giving an olfactory kick. Somehow they just work brilliantly together.

No special equipment is needed for this recipe. I try not to overboil the celeriac but it does need to be quite soft for this soup. If you feel very cheffy you can strain it through a sieve or a “chinois” – I probably should but life is short and the texture is pretty heavenly anyway. I do always make this soup with real stock – if you are going to invest in truffle oil then it deserves a bit of body.

Ingredients

serves 6 as a healthy supper with bread, 12 in dainty cappuccino cups as a starter. Freezes well and I never see the point of making small quantities of soup anyhow.

2 onions finely diced but don’t have a nervous breakdown over them – they are going to be blitzed

1 slice of “bacon crud uscat” per person. The “crud uscat”  is the key here. Don’t use regular “bacon” that has been injected with an array of chemicals and gives of strange white liquid when cooked.

600 ml stock (I use chicken and if you must then use a cube but it is worth using real stock)

1 kg celeriac, peeled, diced – so that means 1.2-1.5 kg of raw celeriac because they are muddy and quite knobbly. Smaller ones are less “woody” and more likely to be unblemished inside. Sometimes they have cavities inside them – this is quite normal.

600 ml double cream or “smantana dulce”

salt and pepper

2 table spoons of white truffle oil

How To

Preheat the oven to 180C

Take the skin off the celeriac and cut into cubes approx. 2cm by 2cm

Place the bacon rashers on a baking tray. Roast in the oven for 10-15 minutes, or until cooked through and crisp. Remove from the oven, set aside to cool. I quite like to serve one crispy rasher across the cappuccino cup but you can crush them and sprinkle them on “crouton” style too.

Heat the stock and diced celeriac in a saucepan until boiling. Reduce the heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes, until cooked through.

Drain, then blend in a food processor until smooth.

Bring the cream to the boil in a saucepan and then add to the celeriac puree.

Give a good stir and check if you like the texture – if it is too thick add a little boiled cream or water.

Remove from the heat BEFORE adding the truffle oil, salt and pepper. Add the truffle oil and taste it – some people like a stronger flavour – I would probably add up to 4 table spoons for example.

To serve, carefully pour the velouté into bowls or cappuccino cups and garnish with pieces of crispy bacon.

I like a Feteasca Alba with this soup but any full bodied white wine will work dreamily. Cheers!

By Rachel Sargent, Guest Writer 

Rachel Sargent is owner of The London Street Atelier, which organizes cookery classes, private dinners and offers catering. More about it here

(photo credits: Rachel Sargent)