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Put celery in the spotlight with this simple Irish soup

Steam rises from a freshly made pot of celery soup from "The Best of Irish Country Cooking" by Nuala Cullen. For added richness and texture, top it with blue cheese. (Adriana Janovich / The Spokesman-Review)
Steam rises from a freshly made pot of celery soup from "The Best of Irish Country Cooking" by Nuala Cullen. For added richness and texture, top it with blue cheese. (Adriana Janovich / The Spokesman-Review)

Celery – common, crunchy, low-calorie – is usually given a supporting role.

The fluted vegetable is great for dipping, if you can stand its fibrous strands. Chopped or shaved stalks add crunch to all kinds of salads. Finely diced cubes – along with onions and carrots – are a staple in the trio that makes up the French soup base mirepoix.

But what if celery were the star of the show?

It is in this easy-to-make Irish soup.

Celery’s mild but distinctive flavor stands out in this comforting dish. Pureed and pale green, it’s perfect for celebrating St. Patrick’s Day, even if you’re not Irish.

This soup is creamy without being too heavy. Rich and melty blue cheese crumbles add a salty, tangy taste on top. The garnish is luxurious, but not necessary. Freshly cracked peppercorns make a nice topper, too.

If you’re doing a dairy free diet, skip the cheese. The cream and milk can easily be left out, too. Substitute coconut cream or coconut milk, if you’d like. And, instead of butter, use olive oil. It’s easy to adapt this recipe for vegetarians (don’t use chicken stock) or vegans.

If you’re avoiding white flour, use arrowroot powder as a thickener. Or, maybe a potato. It’s Irish, after all.

No need to strip the stalks. Why waste the lovely leaves? I tossed everything into the pot.

Next time, for depth of flavor, I might experiment with a little apple or leeks, but not too much. I still want celery to remain in the spotlight.

Celery Soup with Blue Cheese

From “The Best of Irish Country Cooking: Traditional and Contemporary Recipes” by Nuala Cullen

1 large head of celery

2 garlic cloves

1 onion

2 tablespoons butter

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

5 cups vegetable or light chicken stock

Generous 1/2 cup cream

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

A little milk, if necessary

2 to 3 ounces Chetwynde blue cheese or semi-hard blue cheese, crumbled

2 to 3 scallions, finely chopped, to garnish

Crusty bread, to serve

Finely chop the celery, garlic and onion. Melt the butter in a large saucepan, add the prepared vegetables and stir frequently until they begin to soften. Sift in the flour and stir well until it has cooked. Gradually add the hot stock, mixing well to avoid lumps. Cook for 10 minutes or so until the vegetables are completely cooked, and then puree in a blender or food processor.

Return the soup to the saucepan, season well and add the cream. (If the soup seems too thick, add a little milk also.) Cook for a few moments to amalgamate the cream.

Just before serving, bring back to a boil and stir in the crumbled cheese, but don’t continue to boil once it has been added. Garnish with the finely chopped scallions. Serve with plenty of crusty bread.

Yield: 6 servings

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