by Alex Connell, Principal Tutor at the Vegetarian Society Cookery School.
Bright blue skies and cold air is the perfect backdrop to a winter’s walk. Warm food is the order of the day; soups, casseroles, pies and homemade bread are perfect at this time, and I believe should be served
regularly! It’s all good ‘stick to your ribs’ food as my old dad used to say…
So, let’s take a quick look at what’s in season now.
In terms of UK seasonal ingredients, the pickings are still quite good; celeriac, sprouts, celery, leeks, parsnips, Jerusalem artichokes, and potatoes are all around at the moment.
Celeriac is an unusual looking vegetable (see below) with a distinctive, slightly aniseed flavour. Commonly boiled and mashed or turned into soup, it provides plenty of comfort.
Recently, a friend asked me how he could use up some celery to save it from a fate of wilting away in the bottom of the fridge drawer. Celery can be used in all sorts of ways. It works wonderfully as part of a base for soups, casseroles, tagines, and pasta sauces. It’s also a great salad ingredient, for example in a bean salad. And, of course, it’s also a classic crudité which works brilliantly with a smoky hummus.
Leek and potato soup
Classic leek and potato soup with crusty bread has to be up there with the best where comfort foods are concerned.
Can be vegan
Preparation: 5 mins
Cooking: 25 mins
• 1 tbsp olive oil
• 2 medium leeks, washed, trimmed and diced
• 1 onion, diced
• 2 garlic cloves, crushed
• 2 large potatoes, trimmed and cubed
• 1 litre vegetable stock
• 1 tsp dried herbs (e.g. parsley, sage, tarragon)
• 50g cream cheese, crème fraiche or vegan cream cheese
1. In a large saucepan, add the oil and gently fry the leeks and onion for at least 5 minutes then add the garlic, potatoes, stock and herbs. Bring to the boil then simmer for 15 minutes or until the vegetables are cooked.
2. Blend the soup with a stick blender and then stir in the cream cheese. Season with salt and pepper as required.
3. Serve with a chunk of crusty bread
Chef’s tip: If you want to add extra protein to the soup, simply add a handful of dried red lentils at the start, or a can of green lentils or chickpeas just before blending. Either option will also add thickness to the soup.