If anything I am a true romantic at heart. I love flowers, I love chocolate, I love candle light, I love kissing. I basically just love love. So everything I do needs to either bring me more love or give out some serious love, or in my book it’s not really worth doing. Thus we come to todays recipe. This soup, if you ask me, has love written all over it. The funny thing is its inspiration came to me through a completely different angle. But being the incurable romantic that I am I somehow still managed to come up with something that would have Cupido invite himself over for dinner. Note to Cupido; You are always welcome. Just please bring someone with you you can point your arrow at for me, okay! You know, I scratch your back, you scratch mine. That sort of thing.
Anyway, back to that soup. I started working on this recipe because of a project I’m in that is due next february. I will be guest cheffing at the inspirational Steinbesser project that brings artists, chefs and a very creative and decerning audience together in an Artsy Food Experience. The rules are simple; the food must be vegan, seasonal, totally local (this means sourced in Holland), organic, imaginative, exquisitely presented ánd absolutely delicious. Special plates and cutlery are being especially designed by Dutch artists just for this project as we speak! OMG. You can already guess that I am sort of peeing all over my pants, were it not that I mostly wear skirts… But seriously, as daunting as it seems at times I am also so grateful to be asked for something this cool and really am pushing my creativity to it’s very limits to pull this one off.
I recently started the brainstorm sessions with the organiser and based on those somehow (don’t ask!) felt the need to draw inspiration from the Dutch golden age. Well actually, please do ask. I am happy to explain. The thing is as an Ayurvedic chef I am going quite a bit out of my comfort zone here. Seasonal cooking? Sure. Organic? Of course. But no ghee, no milk, no yoghurt, no honey, no coconut oil (hardly any oils for that matter as almost none are being pressed here in the Netherlands from Dutch produce), no avocados, no sweet potatoes and no spices?? Lord help me! So I came to the following deal. I will work with almost all of the no’s on the above mentioned lists but I have to be able to use my spices. After a rather unconvincing but really heart felt account from my part in which I argued that I am from Surinam and Surinam was part of the Dutch empire for centuries, and plenty of spices grow in Surinam, and on and on an on, the poor organiser finally took pity on me and said:” Oké. But júst the spices! I don’t want to see even a drop of coconut oil on sight. YOU HEAR!”.
But you know what? Lame though my arguments might have been there really is a very strong relationship between spices and the Dutch. They were the main spice traders in Europe for centuries and I believe it is fair to say that a great deal of the Dutch wealth, especially in Amsterdam, was gained through producing and trading spices (not to mention the Slave trade, but I want to keep this post nice, so forget I just said that) that came from all over the West Indies. Which, finally (bla bla bla bla bla), brings me to the Dutch Golden Age or 17th Century. This was the time where spices, sugar, coffee and tea were the quinoa, chia seeds, maca powder and wheat grass of our age. In other words, they were hot. Red hot! The richer you were in that time period the more spices you would consume. How ironic that only four centuries later many Dutch have completely lost that affection for spices which (partly) made this country what it is today.
Me for one went to the newly reopened Rijksmuseum for an inspirational trip and soaked in all the food displaying still lives by Golden age heroes such as Willem Claeszoon Heda and Juriaan van Streek. I also checked out the amazing glassware and china collection. On my way home I stopped by an organic market, got myself some honest Dutch fare, put on an apron like a proper 17th century house wife, and dove in the kitchen. And this is what I came up with.
This soup marries simple honest Dutch produce with exotic spice and fragrance. It’s the kind of thing I’d like to serve on, let’s say a tenth date. As it seems to say; I just ran over to the farmers market and grabbed what was on display. Nothing fancy. Just a leek, a humble root celery and some pears. However as I really, really, really like you and want to make the extra effort to impress, I added potent garlic, seductive vanille seeds and just a whiff of exotic rose water. To top it off I mixed toasted ground pistache with argan oil and drizzled it over the unctious soup. Ahem. Cupido, ready when you are!
Golden age root celery and pear soup
For 5 -6 persons
- 2 tablespoons rapeseed oil (or use olive oil)
- 100 grams leeks (use only the white part) sliced in thin rings
- 1 fat garlic clove finely chopped
- 500 gram cleaned root celery chopped in medium size cubes
- 1 1/4 liter hot water or home made vegetable stock
- 200 grams medium soft pears peeled, cored and cubed
- 1 vanila bean, sliced open and seeds removed with a knife
- salt and white pepper
- drop of organic rosewater (optional)
- 2 to 3 tablespoons toasted and finely ground pistachio nuts
- 1 to 2 tablespoons argan, pistache or almond oil
- (edible) red rose petals for garnish (optional)
- 6 long chive sprigs for garnish
Heat a medium pan on medium heat and pour in the oil. When hot add the leeks and garlic. Cook them down until the leek starts releasing it’s juices and becomes quite soft. But don’t let them brown too much. Now add the cubed celery root and stir well to coat with the oil and leek mixture.
Pour in the hot water and bring to the boil. Lower the heat and simmer for about 30 minutes. Now add the pear cubes and the sliced vanila pod(don’t add the seeds yet) and simmer for 10 to 15 more minutes on low heat. Pierce a celery cube with a knife to check for doneness. You want it to be really soft.
Meanwhile make the pistache oil by mixing the toasted ground pistache nuts with the argan oil and a dash of salt in a small bowl.
Remove the vanila pod with a fork. Now add the vanila seeds, salt and white pepper to taste, and the rosewater if using. Blend til really smooth with an immersion blender. Or let the soup cool down a bit and blend in batches either in a heat proof blender or kitchen aid. The consistency should be quite thick, like a very thin puree almost. If the soup is too thick add a bit of extra hot water. If the soup cooled down too much in the process of blendering reheat it in the pan before serving.
Serve the soup in heated soup plates and garnish with the pistache oil, chive sprigs and rose petals.