Friday, 7 October 2011

Celeriac, Bacon and Sage Soup and a Mistral

As I write a Mistral is belting the back of the crew house with a force that could smooth out the knobbles on a celeriac. It’s been blowing since yesterday and was fully expected because my lips and hair began to dry and crack up, the approaching wind sucking up any moisture that originally had me looking slightly less shrivelled. I’m going to need to order some more face cream.

If you have experienced this regional wind in the South of France you’ll understand when I say that you really can tell when a Mistral is due; you can feel it in your bones. It is a strong, dry wind that hurtles through the Rhone valley, accelerating as it heads for the coast and the back of the crew house which faces smack-bang in the middle of its path. It can go on for 2 to 3 days and quite happily reach speeds of up to 90 kilometres an hour. In fact I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s what it is doing right now. I’m a little concerned the windows might not hold out.

But back to my handsome little celeriac and his knobbles. Apart from the fact that this is great root-vegetable season, the crew needs large doses of soothing, healing food at the moment. Most of us have suffered or are still suffering from the end of season St Tropez man-flu/cold. Also our bodies have suffered from the excesses of classic yacht sailing and classic yacht drinking and socialising for far too long. 

We need healing food; we need soup.

I made this soup yesterday for lunch on the boat and it was just what the Doctor ordered. I am a little obsessed with celeriac and so was hugely excited when I pulled it out of the fridge and discovered a perfect little bunch of sage I’d bought and forgotten about, sitting underneath him. What a great little team was formed when bacon lardons were added to the mélange. The sweet, gentle notes of celeriac team perfectly with salty bacon, both accompanied beautifully by the masculine flavour of sage. Be careful with your seasoning, a small amount of salt to start and build quietly as you go and just before you serve. A bit like leek and potato soup, it’s easy to get to the wrong side of seasoned and the subtle balance of flavours will be lost to salt.

I kept the soup nice and chunky, it’s not one to puree due mostly to the lardons and besides who doesn’t prefer a big bowl of chunky soup when one is in need? 

For celeriac, bacon and sage soup you will need;

1 celeriac peeled and chunked into bite sized pieces
1 medium brown onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
200g bacon lardons, unsmoked
2 heaped tbsp finely chopped fresh sage
1.5 to 2 litre’s of chicken or vegetable stock


  • Heat some sunflower oil in a large pan and then add the onions. Gently fry for a few minutes until starting to soften but not colour. Then add the garlic and continue to sauté for another few minutes.

  • Put all of the chopped celeriac in with the onions and stir well to coat all of the celeriac in the onion and garlic mixture. Leave this to sauté, stirring occasionally for about 5-8 minutes. Add a good tablespoon of the chopped sage, a good pinch of salt and a teaspoon of sugar and stir well before turning the heat right down to low and covering with a lid.

  • After about 5 minutes remove the lid and add the bacon lardons, stir well then pour in the stock. Bring to a boil then turn the heat to low and let simmer for about 15 minutes until the celeriac is lovely and soft and starting to break down a little.

  • Mash the soup with a potato masher and stir through the remaining chopped sage. Season to taste with salt and a good grinding of black pepper.

I served this with a Waldorf type salad and garlic bread, the walnuts and apple in the Waldorf marrying so well with the soup. And garlic bread always pleases a hungry crew.

I do hope the St Tropez cold hasn’t broken its boundaries and that you are all sniffle free. Apologies if you too are suffering. I suggest the soup.

I’m wondering whether I should go for a walk. It is beautiful here and it’s been too long since I was able to go for a good long walk. The Mistral brings such clear, fresh weather but I’m a wee bit worried I might get blown off the side of a hill. I’ll put the kettle on and think about it.

Thanks for reading.