Culture: Nicola Miller says it's January - and that means it's time for a great soup
Yes, it’s January, a time for resolutions, and yes this is a soup but it is not a diet soup or a detox soup or a bikini body soup.
It will not judge you or make you feel guilty for what you put into your mouth over Christmas and the new year and it does not claim to do the job your liver, kidneys and lymphatic system already does so very well. I am its creator but I am not one of those people with a dodgy, non-recordable nutritional ‘qualification’ and a lucrative side business in supplements and energy balls made from moon dust mysteriously harvested in Los Angeles. January is the season for soup recipes which claim to possess the power to effect dramatic and instant physiological change. This is not one of them and I’m not going to tell you that this soup will change your life
Dieticians will tell you that a couple of weeks eating Quality Street, cheese, mince pies, and weird things made from leftover turkey and sprouts will not cause such a degree of fatty liver disease that you need to punish yourself with one of Gwyneth Paltrow’s cleanses. Two weeks of Christmas indulgence does not constitute an unbalanced diet; it makes for a lovely time with friends and family, that’s all, and if you worry that you’ve drunk too much, well the treatment for that is to drink a little bit less. Unless you are in the habit of rolling your meals in the mud or putting them through a hot wash, there’s no such thing as dirty or clean eating, either. Let’s drop these unhelpful, judgmental and guilt-provoking labels.
Maybe you are wondering why I am criticising people’s attempts to raise their fitness game? I’m not. It’s faddy rebound diets and unrealistic goals based on shady health claims promoted by an industry with real investment in your failure – and therefore guaranteed return custom – that troubles me.
There are many PR blurbs in my inbox at this time of year, exhorting the benefits of January cleanses, detoxes and nutritional rebalancing, I have not succumbed to their siren song of payback and deprivation, and offer this recipe simply because there’s something rather lovely about curling one’s hands around a steaming bowl of soup when it is cold outside. Despite the fact we’re now on the other side of the winter solstice as the great bulk of the northern hemisphere slowly starts to tilt its face towards the sun once more, the weeks following Christmas can feel dreary and endless. Soup is a kind antidote to this, both in its making and its eating.
The celeriac base adds a rich creaminess that is cut by the apple, the fresh green of the peas and the spinach’s ferrous earthiness; it makes me think of spring. I love celeriac, the gnarly tough guy of the vegetable patch whose hardman exterior masks a soft and yielding heart when cooked. There’s a little bit of prep with this fellow; he’ll need some buttering up, but overall this is an easy and swift soup to put together, which is just what you want after a December of mad cooking and entertaining.
A lovely vegetable soup
2tbsp olive oil
500g celeriac, peeled and chopped into dice
2 small apples peeled and diced (I used russets, but a well-flavoured eating apple will suffice)
1200ml vegetable or chicken stock
500g frozen peas
Two large handfuls of fresh baby leaf spinach, washed and well drained
Teaspoon dried thyme
Black pepper to garnish
In a large, heavy-based pan heat the butter and olive oil until the butter is melted. Add the diced celeriac and sweat for six or so minutes over a low-medium heat. Now add the diced apple and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the apple and celeriac start to colour and become softer. Don’t worry about precise timings, it’s a soup, not a cake.
Add the stock to the celeriac mixture and bring the heat up until the liquid is simmering, then cook for another 10 minutes. Now add the frozen peas and the spinach straight to the pan, season with the thyme and salt and continue to simmer until everything is soft and cooked. Taste and adjust seasoning, then remove from the heat.
Using a stick blender or food processor, blend the soup to a smooth, thick texture, then pour into bowls and season with black pepper.
Toast some bread to serve with.
Follow Nicola on Twitter: @Nicmillerstale