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Celeriac Soup with Apple and Chestnut

Reading Paul Auster’s novel The Brooklyn Follies, I collided with a disturbing idea. According to Auster’s thwarted character Tom, we’ve entered a new era, an era of the ‘post-past age.’ Tom elaborates that the ‘post-past’ means ‘The now. And also the later. But no more dwelling on the then.’

Could that be true? Are we so dislocated from anything that’s gone before that we have no choice but to stare fixedly ahead and wait for what’s coming? What kind of cynic do you think I am? Of course I don’t agree with that notion and neither, I suspect, do you. At this time of year you need only go to a child’s nativity play, or flick through an old cookery book to find the recipe that your mother swore by for Christmas turkey, or attend a Remembrance Day service, or go to a Thanksgiving party, as I did last week. And then you will know that the post-past is a fiction dreamed up by people who favour the smart remark above the truth.

And just in case you need a little more persuading, here is my recipe for celeriac and chestnut soup, a divinely fragrant concoction that I first ate when I was a child. As far as I’m concerned, the post-past is dead. Long live the pre-present….

Celeriac Soup With Apple and Chestnut

Serves 6

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 floury potato

1 medium onion

1 garlic clove

I whole celeriac, peeled and cut into chunks

I litre vegetable stock

100 ml double cream

100 ml full cream milk

100 g vacuum packed cooked chestnuts

2 Granny Smith apples

Truffle oil

Cut the potato, onion, 1 apple and celeriac into chunks and slice the garlic. Soften the onion gently in the olive oil for five minutes, and then add the potato, garlic, apple and celeriac. Don’t allow the vegetables to brown. Season and continue to cook gently for another five minutes and then add the hot vegetable stock and simmer for twenty minutes. Puree with a stick blender before stirring in the cream and milk. Reheat the soup, but don’t let it boil. Adjust the seasoning. Break the chestnuts into smallish pieces and saute briefly in a little olive oil. Cut the second apple into the finest julienne – (don’t peel the apple – the flash of green at one end is good). Serve the soup with a scattering of chestnuts, a sprinkling of apple and a circular drizzle of truffle oil. Eat your soup like the Roman god Janus, facing backwards and forwards at the same time. And let’s have no more talk of the post-past.

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