Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Celeriac, Chickpea and Cabbage Soup

I grew up gleaning food. We had different walks home from school depending whether it was the season for loquats, feijoas or cherry plums, or whether mum needed us to grab a few bay leaves. Even now, thirty years later, I still get an enormous kick out of finding food in public spaces; it's an even bigger kick in a built-up suburb like Brunswick.

This week, I've nipped bay leaves off a hedge a few blocks away; fennel seeds from an empty lot near the railway line; and parsley from garden escapees in the lanes near our house. It may not be enough to knit body and soul together, but it is more than enough to flavour soup.

And while spring may have sprung, today it is cold again, and we are promised more delightfully wintry weather for the weekend. As much as I cherish the wintry weather, even I must admit that it won't last forever; the season for soup is drawing to a close. This cold snap may be soup's last hurrah for a while; and so soup is what I have made.

Yet again, I have used celeriac to flavour the soup. It seems to have snuck its way into everything this year, possibly because it has been cheaper than potatoes at the organic shop. Here, it features with cabbage and chickpeas, its soft clean flavour lending brightness to what otherwise might have a cabbage-y boarding-house tendency. The soup is flavoured with the herbal gleanings and homemade stock; it is very economical, yet absolutely delicious. A nice piece of sourdough on the side, and you have a complete meal.

Celeriac, Chickpea and Cabbage Soup

- 4 tbs olive oil
- 5 anchovies (optional)
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 tsp fennel seeds, crushed
- 1 brown onion, chopped
- 800g celeriac
- 200g dried chickpeas, soaked overnight then cooked until soft
- 400g Savoy cabbage, shredded
- 1 litre hot chicken stock (recipe here)
- salt, pepper
- parsley, chopped
- parmesan (optional)

Warm the olive oil in a large soup pot. Add the anchovies and push them around with a wooden spoon for a minute or two, or until they have turned to paste. Add the bay leaves and fennel seeds, and cook for another minute. Add the onion and celeriac, turn the heat down, and cook until soft.

Add the cooked chickpeas, the cabbage, and the chicken stock, and season. Cover and simmer for half an hour or until the celeriac is cooked through.

Check for seasoning, sprinkle with parsley, and pass the parmesan.

Simplified from a recipe in the fantastic River Cafe Cookbook Green.

(Local: celeriac, chickpeas, cabbage, bay leaves (nipped from an overhanging tree a few blocks away), fennel seeds (scrounged from the railway line), parsley (picked from a garden escapee in a laneway since our chickens got to ours), olive oil. Victorian: onions, salt. Various provenances which I can't be bothered to list: chicken stock ingredients, anchovies (sustainably fished). La bella Italia: parmesan.)

The River Cafe Cookbook Green

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