Digging around in the pantry these last few weeks has been quite enjoyable. A jar of wild rice – long sleek grains of black and chocolate brown – and a packet of dried porcini were unearthed this weekend. Soup season may have dug its heels firmly in this week, but I’m nowhere near done with it. Not while the celeriac looks this good, anyway.
Clean is Deborah Madison’s typically spare description of this soup and she is, typically, spot on. Clean, as a descriptor, may not seal the deal on recipes ordinarily, but by this stage of winter I find myself longing for something lighter. There’s been a lot of stodge eaten in these parts of late. So this beautiful and yes, clean, balance of warm, wintry earthiness and toothsome, lightly-cooked vegetables seemed to say all the right things. A cloudy, fragrant stock from simmering wild rice and dried mushrooms together; a little soothing creaminess stirred through at the last moment and I served it with a little saucer of amber sesame oil to dribble, at will, across the surface.
It is excellent. A timely reminder that spring, and change, are not too far away.
A wild rice and celeriac soup – feeds 4
Wild rice smells intoxicatingly good as it cooks. Too often that scent is lost in and amongst other grains. Not here. Here, it is star. Attention paid to the quality and flavour of your soy milk will make all the difference if cream is not your thing. Adapted, heavily, from Deborah Madison.
3 handfuls of wild rice (about ¾ cup)
1 handful of dried mushrooms (porcini, shiitake, etc)
Toasted sesame oil
6 cups of water
3 tablespoons of olive oil (or a mixture of butter and oil)
1 large bundle of spring onions
1 bunch of parsley
2 stalks of celery
1 fist-sized potato, scrubbed well
1 small celeriac
1 bay leaf
A few healthy sprigs of thyme
½ cup soy milk or thin cream
Place the wild rice in a saucepan, add the mushrooms, a teaspoon of toasted sesame oil and the water. Bring to a boil, add ½ a teaspoon of sea salt and reduce the heat to a burble. Set a lid, slightly ajar, on top and simmer for 40 minutes. When ready – the grains will butterfly open, bursting from their skins – set a strainer over a large bowl to collect the rice stock and drain. Set both stock and rice aside separately.
Warm the olive oil in a wide saucepan over a gentle heat. Trim the spring onions and chop finely. Slice the parsley leaves from their stalks, reserving the leaves. Finely chop the stalks. Add the spring onions and parsley stalks to the saucepan and cook while you chop the remaining veg. Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring from time to time.
Cut the carrots into thick slices and then into large irregular shapes. Trim and slice the celery stalks. Cut the potato into large dice then thickly peel the celeriac and cut it too into large dice. Add the vegetables to the saucepan, up the heat and fry for about 3 minutes. Throw in the bay leaf and thyme and pour in the reserved rice stock along with another cup, perhaps a little more, of water. Bring to a boil, add 1½ teaspoons of salt then reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes, until the vegetables are tender.
Chop the remaining parsley leaves. Add the soy milk or cream to the soup, remove the bay leaf and tip in the rice and mushrooms and most of the parsley leaves. Warm through and serve in deep bowls, each garnished with a little parsley, lots of pepper and a few droplets of toasted sesame oil to round things off nicely.