Sunday, 30 September 2007
The Wind The Rain and Other Things
We've had a rainy couple of days here where I live. Typical autumnal weather, I suppose. Chilly and damp, with small bits of sunshine in between. I can remember my first year over here in England. It was the wettest autumn and winter on record and there was widespread flooding in the South. I was beginning to wonder what had I let myself in for! It rained literally every single day.
I've discovered that it's very difficult to take photos of rain. You can't really see it, at least not with the lens of an ordinary camera. Much like the wind, it's very hard to capture. You can see the effects of it though, on other things, such as
the drips that fall onto the leaves and flowers in the garden . . .
or on a window pane . . .
or into a puddle . . .
The garden looks so dismal when it is raining and wet outside. One feels sorry for the many birds that frequent our little corner of the kingdom here. I venture outside to put a few crumbs out for them, and they do flit back and forth to the feeders, but I'm sure it isn't a pleasant journey for them. There is a little robin that is quite tame. He sits in a bush nearby and peeps at me as if to say," Come on now, hurry up, I am ready and waiting for my supper!"
Jess doesn't like it when it rains either. She knows that her ball playing and walkaboutswill be curtailed somewhat and not as much fun as they usually are. She mostly sits in the corner and sighs at us with disgust from time to time. Alas, the house is not the place to be throwing a ball to and fro, or for racing excitable dogs to be running about.
One thing that a rainy cold and wet day is good for though, is to eat a nice bowl of hot soup. Sitting here, in the cosy, warm and dry kitchen of our small cottage, with a fire blazing away in the grate and Jess at our feet, we could be in heaven . . .
*Celeriac, Apple, and Stilton Soup*
I often use celeriac raw, tossed into salads or cut into sticks for dipping in a garlic mayonnaise. It's nice sliced thin and baked into a gratin as well. This creamy soup though is a really delicious way to showcase it's pleasant sweet taste, which blends well with the sweetness of the apple and the savoury rich taste of the cheese. This is a real winner served up with some lovely Apple Sage Muffins on the side, the apples from the orchards around us and the sage from our own tiny garden.
4 TBS butter
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
1 1/2 pounds celeriac, peeled and cut into small chunks
1 large potato, peeled and coarsely chopped
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
2 eating apples, peeled, cored and cut into wedges
8 to 9 cups of hot vegetable stock
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 ounces stilton cheese, crumbled
Celery leaves for garnish (optional)
celery seeds for garnish (optional)
a bit of stilton to crumble on the top
Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the onions, celeriac, potatoes and garlic. Allow the vegetables to sweat and cook gently for 8 to 10 minutes, giving them a stir from time to time and making sure that they do not brown. Add the apples and enough vegetable stock to completely cover everything. Stir in a generous bit of sea salt and black pepper. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat and allow the soup to simmer until the celeriac is tender, about 30 to 40 minutes.
Ladle the soup, in batches, into a blender or food processor and puree until smooth. Alternately use your stick blender to blend it into smoothness right in the pot. (my preferred method). Return the soup to the stove over low heat and add the crumbled Stilton cheese, stirring constantly until the cheese melted. Serve in heated bowls with celery leaves and celery seeds scattered on top if desired. Offer a basketful of the warm Apple and Sage Muffins on the side if you wish.
*Little Apple and Sage Muffins*
makes about 24 mini muffins
These are lovely little tender bites that go very well with the above soup. There is an underlying savoury crunchiness from the cornmeal and a delicate sweetness from the apple. The sage only enhances these lovely flavours.
1 cup plain flour
1/2 cup finely ground yellow cornmeal
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp coarsely chopped fresh sage leaves
1/2 tsp dry mustard
pinch cayenne pepper
5 TBS freshly grated Parmesan Cheese
1/4 tsp salt
1 large egg, beaten
1 tsp sugar
4 TBS butter, melted and cooled
1/3 cup sour cream
1/4 cup milk
1 apple peeled, cored and grated
3 TBS soft Goat's cheese
Pre-heat the oven to 180*C/375*F. Lightly grease two mini muffin cup pans (24 holes) or spray them with cooking spray and set aside.
Whisk the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, soda, sage, mustard, cayenne pepper and 3 TBS of the Parmesan cheese together with the salt in a medium sized bowl.
Combine the egg and sugar together in aother bowl and slowly add the melted butter, mixing it in well. Whisk in the sour cream and the milk, mixing to combine well. Fold in the grated apple.
Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, mixing gently until just combined, without overmixing. Crumble the goats cheese over and gently mix in, allowing for clumps.
Spoon the batter evenly into the muffin cups and then sprinkle the remaining 2 TBS of Parmesan cheese evenly over top of each one. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes or until light golden brown. Serve warm with the soup.