Velvety celeriac soup with sourdough Parmesan croutons and celery-leaf oil
For the croutons
300g white sourdough bread, torn into pieces 50g grated Parmesan
For the soup
2 onions, chopped
1 garlic clove, chopped 2 medium-sized potatoes, cut into dice
300g celeriac, peeled and diced
1.2 litres chicken stock leaves from 50g fresh tarragon 110ml crème fraîche ground white pepper
a handful of tender leaves (about 80g) from the centre of a celery head, finely chopped 6 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil Preheat the oven to 180C/ gas mark 4.
Line a baking sheet with baking parchment, arrange the pieces of bread on it, then sprinkle over the Parmesan. Bake until golden – about 12-15 minutes. Keep warm until needed.
Melt the butter in a pan and add the onions. Cook until soft, then add the garlic, potatoes, celeriac, stock and tarragon. Bring to the boil, then simmer until the vegetables are soft.
Transfer to a liquidiser or food processor and blend with the crème fraîche until very smooth. Transfer back to a pan.
Clean the processor, then blitz the celery leaves with the oil and a pinch of salt.
Reheat the soup, season to taste with salt and white pepper, and then serve with drizzles of the celery-leaf oil, and the croutons. Warm salad of sautéed smoked eel, pear, pancetta and watercress Serves 4
You can buy smoked eel online from the Severn & Wye Smokery, which sources the fish sustainably. The meat is white and boneless, very rich and, when fried in a little butter, as good as a tender cut of pork. This is an unusual and scrumptious starter – you will be surprised how easy it is to convert squeamish eaters into loving eel. For the dressing 4 tbsp cider
2 tbsp cider vinegar 2 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp poppy seeds
For the salad
2 pears, each cut lengthways into 8 wedges
4-6 rashers pancetta
2 tbsp butter
1 tbsp vegetable oil 200g smoked eel
100g watercress, tough stalks removed
2 tbsp hazelnut oil
1 tbsp shelled cobnuts or skinned hazelnuts, toasted and roughly chopped Put all the dressing ingredients, apart from the seeds, into a pan with half a teaspoon of salt and simmer until syrupy and reduced slightly. Set aside to cool completely, then put the pear slices in a bowl and pour in the dressing, adding the poppy seeds Toss to coat, then set aside.
Place a frying pan over a low heat, and lay the pancetta slices in it. Cook gently, turning once, until crisp. Drain on kitchen paper.
Clean the pan, then add the butter and vegetable oil and place over a medium heat. When the butter begins to foam, add the eel and brown it for about a minute on each side, then remove from the heat and flake it into bite-sized pieces.
To build the salad, put the watercress on a serving plate and dress with the hazelnut oil.
Scatter the eel over it, then the pears, pancetta (left whole or broken up), and cobnuts/ hazelnuts. Serve immediately. Braised borlotti beans and sausage with a parsley, lemon and caper gremolata Serves 4
Thick and creamy with nubbles of sausage meat, melted gammon and soft red borlotti beans. The parsley and caper mixture freshens the dish beautifully. 4 large sausages, preferably Italian-style without breadcrumbs 3 tbsp duck fat
8 slices back bacon, rind and fat removed
1 onion, finely chopped 1 medium carrot, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped 1 tbsp tomato purée 1 tsp sweet balsamic vinegar 500ml chicken stock
2 x 400g cans borlotti beans, drained
4 tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 tbsp drained and washed capers, chopped zest of 1 lemon
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil Remove the sausage meat from the skins (run a knife lengthways down the casing and scoop out the meat), then shape the meat from each sausage into two oval meatballs.
Heat half the fat in a frying pan and brown the sausage balls on all sides – don’t cook them through – then set them to one side. Quickly cook the bacon, then roughly chop it and set aside.
In the same pan, add the rest of the fat with the onion, carrot and garlic. Cook over a low heat until soft, about 10 minutes, then add the tomato purée and vinegar.
Add the chicken stock, beans, sausage meatballs and bacon, then cover with a lid and simmer for 30 minutes. Mix together the parsley, capers, zest and oil and, when the stew is ready to serve, scatter it over the top. Serve with good crusty bread.