Saturday, 8 September 2012

Celery & Chestnut Soup and Roasted Flat Peaches with Vanilla Crème Fraîche

I mentioned in the earlier prawn linguine post that I'd planned last weekend to cook up some celery soup followed by the venison last posted. Obviously my small plumbing disaster intervened (we opted for an Indian in the end as I was too stressed out to cook) but the celery soup came out earlier in the week and some tired old peaches languishing in the bottom of the fridge turned it into a pretty filling 2 course meal.

Celery and chestnut soup most definitely resides in my top two favourite soups to cook (the other being parsnip with smoked scallops in case you're interested) and, lots of fine dicing aside, is an absolute breeze to make.

I've no idea how exactly I first came up with this but I've been cooking it for years - personally hating raw celery it is an excellent way to use up the rest of a head once a few sticks have been used as the basis of a mirepoix or soffritto. Deceptively simple, the chestnuts really give it quite an intense depth of flavour that, in my opinion, is absolutely delicious.

As stated I also had some manky old flat peaches hidden at the back of the fridge that I'd forgotten about and were clearly past their best for just munching on. Roasting, however can sometimes have a magical restorative effect, turning that past it’s best into something full flavoured and enlivened. Treated with a little cinnamon, sugar & marsala, that was certainly the case here.

Celery & Chestnut Soup
serves 4

1 large onion
37.5g unsalted butter
5 celery sticks, finely diced
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
½ tsp fresh thyme leaves
1 bay leaf
240g chestnuts
625ml chicken or vegetable stock
4 tbsp Marsala or Madeira
125ml single cream 

Melt the butter over a low heat in a large pot and add the onion. Cook very slowly – for about 30 minutes, until glossy, translucent and softened, stirring occasionally.

Add the finely diced celery sticks, garlic, thyme and bay leaf. Pop a lid on the pot and sweat for 20 minutes.

Roughly crumble the chestnuts into the pot, recover and sweat for 10‐15 minutes more, stirring occasionally to ensure nothing sticks.

Turn the heat up a bit and stir in the stock, letting it bubble for a few minutes. Season with a grind of pepper and salt and pour in the cream and Marsala.

Remove the bay leaf then blitz with a stick blender until smooth and velvety.

A drizzle of truffle oil when you serve makes a nice addition here but is in no way essential! What is however is some nice bread..

Cinnamon & Marsala Roasted Flat Peaches with Vanilla Crème Fraîche
serves 2 generously

4 flat peaches
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tbsp light brown sugar
2 tbsp Marsala
knob of butter
150ml low fat creme fraiche
½ tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp agave syrup (or honey)

Preheat the oven to 200C.

Wipe or wash the peaches if  necessary and carefully remove the stone. Flat peaches obviously have the advantage of being, well, flat meaning that they won’t rock around and the little divot made by removing the stone can be filled when roasting. If you don’t have flat peaches just halve them and remove the stone.

Place the peaches in a small roasting pan, spoon the madeira into each of the holes and sprinkle with a little cinnamon and brown sugar before dotting with some butter. 

Cook for 20-30 minutes until golden, basting once halfway through cooking if any juices have leaked out.

While the peaches are cooking, mix the creme fraiche with the vanilla and agave syrup.

Serve the peaches in bowls or small plates with a big dollop of creme fraiche. 

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