Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Bittersweet Symphony

Zuppa Dolceamaro di Puntarelle, Sedano e Porri
Bittersweet Puntarelle, Celery and Leek Soup 

I am going to be brave and post this little gem anyway- even though probably 95% of you out there would not want to eat this... it really is quite bitter! But, being Sicilian, I like that- and I know that it is good for you too... and apart from that, being Sicilian, I was not going to throw away the left over pieces of Puntarelle from Saturday!

So my challenge was to try to think of a way to reduce the bitterness of the Puntarelle and make something good out of it. The only way I could do it was to follow my intuition- after all, I don't know one other person that has eaten this stuff! 

I started off by gently frying some finely chopped bacon in a small saucepan. After a couple of minutes, the bacon should have given off quite a bit of its fat- which is perfect for us to now fry the remainder of the ingredients in. That meant the Puntarelle, celery and leek, all fairy finely chopped, along with some parsley and garlic. Stir together well and sautée for 3-4 minutes before de-glazing with some boiling water.

Add only a little water at this point, then stir vigorously, so as to break down the structure of the vegetables a little. Season with salt, pepper, nutmeg and a few caraway seeds. Turn up the heat, add a tablespoon of sweet mustard, a tablespoon of honey and stir in a cupful of boiling milk. What may happen next, is that the milk may appear to curdle a little- but don't let that irritate you... carry on boiling and stirring and you will find that it becomes smooth again after a couple of minutes. Add one small, finely grated potato and keep stirrng until everything becomes smooth and creamy.

At this point, you can add more boiling water, to get the consistency and thickness of the soup right. Add a handful of finely chopped parsley and turn off the heat. I discovered, purely by chance, that if you let the soup cool down and then re-heat it later, that it does in fact taste a little less bitter... with me, it was due to the fact that I had to take these photos first and that the soup of course cooled off... but I would recommend trying this method and will be trying it again myself. Adjust the seasoning (salt + pepper, add honey if still too bitter) and serve with a nice grind of pepper and chili and kiss that cold, damp weather good bye with a hearty bowl of soup!

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