Soothing, sweet, buttery, winter vegetables are a real blessing when the weather’s cold. Plants keep a store of energy in the form of sugars in their tubers and roots, and those tubers and roots make for some surprisingly uplifting eating. This soup is passed through a sieve after being liquidised to ensure a silky, creamy texture. If you don’t own a food processor you can still make it – at the stage where the ingredients go into the processor bowl you can just mash them with a potato masher for about ten minutes, then pass the resulting mush through a sieve, pressing it through with the bottom of a ladle. You will end up muscular and with a very good pan of soup.
Because of all the plant sugars in these vegetables, you’ll find you need something salty to counter the sweet taste. I’ve cut chorizo into coins and fried it until it’s crisp and friable – a lovely contrast in texture with the silky, creamy soup. The result is a lovely sun-coloured dish at a time of year when the sun is a distant memory.
To serve four as a main course, you’ll need:
1 small celeriac
3 small sweet potatoes
1 small swede
1 small butternut squash
1 small onion
3 tablespoons butter
1 litre chicken stock (vegetarians can substitute vegetable stock and use croutons instead of the chorizo)
200 ml double cream
2 teaspoons salt
½ a nutmeg, grated
10 turns of the pepper mill
2 tablespoons chopped chives
Peel all the vegetables and cut them all into 1-inch chunks. Melt the butter in a large pan with a heavy base (this will help the soup cook evenly – I recommend Le Creuset pans, which are made of enamelled cast iron, and disperse heat beautifully) and sweat the vegetables, stirring regularly, until they begin to soften. You’ll find that the sweet potato pieces may brown a little. Don’t worry about it; they contain so much sugar that it’s hard to prevent a little of it caramelising, and it just gives depth to the soup.
When the vegetables are softening evenly, pour over the hot stock. It’s best if your stock is home-made, but some of the liquid stocks you can buy at the supermarket these days are a good substitute if you don’t have any in the freezer. Bring the stock and vegetables to a simmer, cover with a lid and leave for 20 minutes or until all the vegetables are soft all the way through.
While the soup simmers, slice a chorizo into pieces about the same size as a pound coin and fry over a medium flame in a dry frying pan, stirring and flipping the pieces occasionally. The chorizo will release its fat and the pieces will become crisp. After about 20 minutes, when the chorizo is crisp and dry, remove the pieces and drain on paper towels. Reserve the oil.
Transfer the vegetables and stock to a large bowl and liquidise in batches, passing each processed batch through a sieve back into the large pan. You will find you need to push the soup through the sieve with the back of a large spoon or ladle. Return the pan to a very low heat and stir in the cream, salt and pepper and the grated nutmeg. Bring to a simmer and serve with a drizzle of chorizo oil, some chorizo scattered over (keep some more in a bowl for people to help themselves) and a sprinkling of chopped chives.