I think celery is a wonderful ingredient for soup. It can seem on the surface a bit of a nothingy vegetable; great for adding a bit of crunch to a salad but not particularly interesting in its own right.
Don’t get me wrong. I love celery in a salad but it is usually a bit part player.
But when cooked, it is transformed. The flavour deepens and intensifies. And combined as in this soup with the saltiness of smoked pancetta and a strong blue cheese, such as a Stilton or Blue Vinney, I really don’t think you can achieve much more pleasure in a bowl of food than this.
I make my celery soup with chicken stock plus a sprinkling of crispy pancetta to serve, but for a vegetarian version simply leave out the pancetta and use vegetables stock instead.
This is a perfect soup for a light but indulgent lunch and is also interesting enough for a starter when you have friends over for dinner. Its taste belies how simple it is to make. My children will eat it quite happily, but only if I omit to tell them there is any blue cheese in it.
Celery and blue cheese soup with crispy smoked pancetta
Large knob of butter
1 onion, peeled and chopped
5 large sticks of celery, chopped
2 potatoes, peeled and diced
800ml chicken stock, hot
75g blue cheese
50g pancetta, diced
In a large pan melt the butter and gently fry the onions until golden. Add the celery and potatoes and toss in the butter for a couple of minutes.
Pour in the hot stock and simmer for 10-15 minutes, until the celery and potatoes are tender.
Meanwhile fry the pancetta in a little more butter until crispy. Place on some kitchen towel so they are not too greasy.
Liquidise until smooth and then return to a gentle heat. Crumble in the blue cheese and stir until it has melted in. Check for seasoning at this point, but I’d be surprised if you need any.
Serve in bowls with a sprinkling of crispy pancetta. Soup doesn’t get sexier than this!