This morning was warm, calm and sunny — a perfect California winter day.
Then whispy wind clouds appeared overhead….
… And suddenly we were in the midst of a mighty wind blowing a storm in from the Pacific.
So I toodled back into the house, wrapped up warm and started thumbing through my favorite cookbooks.
This recipe is modeled after Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s Leek, Celeriac and Smoked Pollack Soup from his River Cottage Everyday cookbook — a perfect Christmas present! I would have made the original except for one slight problem: I can’t find freshly smoked pollack anywhere. Sadly it’s much harder to get my hands on an array of beautifully smoked fish in my little part of the States than it is in England, where varieties of smoked fish virtually swim through the isles. Well, maybe not, but they’re definitely easier to come by over there.
So, I used cod fillets, though you could use nearly any firm white fish you like. I think salmon might be a little overpowering, but hey, give it a go! You never know unless you try.
1 lb cod fillets (or any firm white fish)
1 quart whole milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup dry sherry
3 Tbsp pastured butter
2 large leeks, cleaned and sliced (white part only)
2 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 celeriac, peeled and chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 bay leaf
1 handful fresh parsley, finely chopped, stalks reserved
2 Tbsp finely chopped chives
I followed HFW’s cooking instructions pretty closely, with only a couple exceptions.
Place the cod fillets in a saucepan and add 1 Tbsp butter with the milk, sherry, bay leaf and parsley stems. Heat gently over a medium flame until it just barely begins to simmer, then turn off the heat and cover. The fish will continue to cook in the warm milk and should be completely done after 5 – 10 minutes.
Gently remove the fish from the milk, pull it apart into large flakes and set aside in a covered bowl. Remove the bay leaf and parsley stems and keep the warm milk. It’ll soon be the soup base.
In a large soup pot, heat the rest of the butter over a medium high heat then sauté the leeks, celeriac, carrots and potatoes together for 10 minutes without allowing them to color or burn. Add the reserved milk and cream, bring to a gentle simmer and cook over a low heat until all the vegetables are soft.
When they’re soft, taste for salt, then using a hand blender, blitz the soup into a chunky purée, then stir in the flakes of fish and garnish with the chopped parsley and chives.
Now that this rich, flavorful soup has warmed my cockles, I can comfortably sing in our windy wintery desert, “Let it blow, let it blow, let it blow…”