During the last growing season locally, there has been widespread drought. That has affected everything from grain and vegetable growing to the ranching industry. Much of the food supply has been affected. Since I eat mostly from locally sourced farms and ranches, I hear directly from the farmers themselves at how it has affected them.
Among the vegetable farmers, you hear a lot about the volume of most vegetables being lower. While I’ve always been good at making the most of few ingredients, this winter this idea will be more important than ever. One of the best examples of making ingredients go a long way is soups or the Québécois potage. Or a smooth vegetable purée in a soup.
Another idea is to maximize the flavour of each vegetable that you’re using to boost the overall flavour of the potage and still use less of each component. From caramelizing onions to toasting tomato paste there are always opportunities to boost flavour. The other is to use ingredients with the same flavour, but from different sources. In this case make celery the star. In both stalk and root form, celery on its own has massive flavour.
- 1 tsp oil
- 2 medium onions, peeled and chopped
- ½ tsp salt
- 4 stalks celery, chopped
- 1-2 long red chillis, seeds removed (if you want it less spicy), chopped
- 1 small can tomato paste (about ½ cup)
- 150g/6oz celery root, peeled and chopped
- 200g/7oz potato (a starchy variety like Russet or Yukon Gold), chopped (you don't have to peel it if it's thin-skinned)
- 2 cups milk
- 1 cup water
- In a large pot over medium high heat, add the oil, onions and salt. Sauté for 5-7 minutes, or until starting to soften and lightly brown. Reduce heat to medium and continue to stir, scraping the bottom of the pan periodically to loosen any brown bits that may start to form. Add a few tablespoons of water to dislodge the brown bits if necessary. After about 20 minutes total, the onions should be deeply caramelized.
- Add the celery and chillis. Sauté for another 3-4 minutes to soften. Add the tomato paste and toast over medium high heat for 4-5 minutes, stirring and scraping the pan to ensure an even toasting. Add the water and scrape the bottom of the pan to ensure every bit is incorporated into the soup. Add the celery root, potato and milk. Bring to a simmer, reduce heat to low, cover with a lid and simmer for 20 minutes. Purée until smooth. Serves 3-4 as a starter or as a light meal.