Don’t fall short of perfection

I’m going to make celery soup tomorrow. We have a soup maker which is so simple to use – I know making soup is pretty easy anyway, but this is even easier. I’ll use celery, onions, some stock, maybe a little milk, some herbs, put it all in the soup maker, switch on and in 25 minutes or so, soup! Constance Spry has a more complicated recipe – did they have electric soup makers when she wrote her book in 1956? She prefaces the recipe with a comment that soup made with the head of celery may curdle; that seems extraordinary to me, but when I look at her ingredients and see it contains eggs I wonder if that explains it. She says because of the curdling risk, it’s best to use celeriac rather than a head of celery which I would think would give a very different flavour. However she instructs that ‘a fresh, crisp head should be chosen, and the piece of root, so often thrown away, used.’  the way celery is sold the days, chopped off at the bottom so the big outer stalks are cut away, ther is rarely any of the crisp white and tasty root.

Here’s her cream of celery soup:

  • 1 good head of celery, sliced finely
  • 1 medium sized onion, sliced finely
  • 2¼ oz butter
  • 1½ pints milk or milk and water
  • 2 blades of mace
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 6 peppercorns
  • 1¼ oz flour
  • salt
  • liaison – 2 yolks of egg, ½ gill cream
  • croutons
  1. melt ¾ oz butter, add vegetables, cover with a butter paper and lid, and stew gently for 20-30 mins or until soft
  2. add milk, spices and bay-leaves to a separate pan, bring gently to the boil, leave to cool then strain
  3. melt remaining butter in a clean pan, stir in flour, cook gently for a few minutes, add herby milk and make a white sauce, stirring to avoid lumps, simmer for 4-5 mins
  4. rub the vegetables through a sieve, then take the white sauce off the heat and stir in the purée by degrees, adjusting the seasoning
  5. beat the egg yolks in a small bowl, then add the cream and mix well
  6. add a few spoonfuls of the vegetable purée and mix in, then carefully add back into the soup and serve at once with croutons

Constance adds a rather nice little note to her directions on making and adding the liaison: Do I hear, ghost-like, on the air, the words ‘what a performance’? It certainly sounds rather like that!  She explains that these instructions are for less experienced cooks, and those who have used these techniques before wont in fact need them. It should also help cooks new to these techniques to understand ‘if you wonder one day why your purée  falls short of perfection’.

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