This is a fine autumn or winter soup, comforting and with a surprising degree of sweetness. Bridget thinks it tastes of apples. It was inspired by a lunch I wasn’t even at, in Ballymaloe in East Cork. Celeriac and hazelnut soup was served and devoured, and, later, while the telling of the lunch was going on I was thinking what a brilliant combination that was. An hour later we had produced a version. I still haven’t tasted the original; I don’t get out enough. The weight of celeriac here, as with all measurements in this book, is a net weight, the amount that needs to go into the pot. Depending on the knobliness, size and shape of your celeriac, you might need to bring home twice or even three times that weight. Peeling them isn’t so much peeling as slicing off the skin and roots. We grind the hazelnuts before they are subjected to the blending of the soup because I want them to be a flavour rather than a texture. The leeks on top add some texture as well as flavour, though you can leave them out and serve the soup with just a blob of cream or soured cream, if you like. The recipe makes two litres, enough for six to eight portions.
CHOP THE ONION AND GARLIC - it doesn’t really matter how thickly or in what shape; everything goes under the blade of the blender later. Heat a little oil, butter or both in a large pot and start the onion and garlic cooking. Meanwhile; peel and coarsely chop the celeriac and potato and; when the onion has softened; add it to the pot with the stock. Bring this to the boil; then simmer it gently until the vegetables are all quite soft. This should take 20-30 minutes.
While the soup is simmering; roast the hazelnuts in a low - medium oven; a slow roasting is best to cook them evenly through to the centre. If you have the patience, it is best to peel the nuts now. A usually successful method is to put them in a tea-towel and rub them together. The skins will simply fall away after one or two rubbings. Any stubborn patches of skin are best ignored, they may have their reasons. Now grind the nuts as finely as possible in a food processor and stir them into the soup pot with the dill and nutmeg. Season generously with salt and pepper, then blend the soup. If it is too thick for your liking, simply add some water and remember to check the seasoning.
Trim any tough or damaged green ends off the leek, slice it in half lengthways almost to the base and wash it carefully under running water. Then chop it across into thin slices. Gently fry these in a little butter until tender, then season them and set aside. It matters little whether they are hot or at room temperature when you serve them. Put a spoon of lightly whipped cream on each serving of soup, and, on top of that, a small mound of leek.
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