Jane Grigson's Celery Soup

February  5, 2014

Every week -- often with your help -- Food52's Senior Editor Kristen Miglore is unearthing recipes that are nothing short of genius.

Today: The secret to the most richly flavored soup isn't in how much butter you use, but when you use it.

Jane Grigson's Celery Soup from Food52

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We've all been there, trying to make a creamy soup that screams of carrots or turnips or butternut, only to get to the end, taste, cringe, and wish we hadn't dirtied the blender.

Then we scramble and try to correct, adding salt and cream and Sriracha, but by then it's too late. We succeed only in making soup that tastes more like salt or cream or Sriracha, the heart washed away. We eat it, but with defeat. It's a sad story. I shouldn't have told it.

Jane Grigson's Celery Soup from Food52

Cheer up! It doesn't have to be that way. We needn't wait and wonder if our soup will taste of anything. We just need to follow Jane Grigson's lead, and commit from the start.

Jane Grigson  Good Things

Her recipe below might not look like anything different from your average puréed soup, and perhaps it looks worse -- celery and dried dill weed? It sounds like it came from one of the more severe victory garden manuals. She could have at least sprung for a fresh herb, you may think, or a piece of bacon.

More: How to make creamy soup from (almost) any vegetable you've got, without a recipe.

Jane Grigson's Celery Soup from Food52

But note the respectable chunk of butter added straightaway (Grigson was a fan of this pairing -- her ants on a log were celery hearts stuffed with butter and salt).

Jane Grigson's Celery Soup from Food52

Rather than waiting till the end to discover what her soup needed, she fed it from the beginning.

The onions, celery, and potato will stew gently in that buttery goodness for 10 minutes, and it will drink up all their potential -- more than you knew they had. By the time you add stock and dill weed, the butter is a carrier and magnifier for everything that's good in those three humble vegetables.

Jane Grigson's Celery Soup from Food52  Jane Grigson's Celery Soup from Food52

Then you'll simmer a bit, blend, strain, and swirl in a little cream and more dill weed, if you're feeling flush. You've just made a perfectly elegant soup out of nothing.

Jane Grigson's Celery Soup from Food52

If you're still not sure that celery can carry a soup -- maybe you're thinking of the can of cream of celery buried in your mother's tuna casserole -- this is the soup that will prove you wrong.

It tastes very much of celery, of course, but also strangely like the best homemade chicken noodle (without discernible chicken, or noodles). You thought that familiar flavor was all chicken -- but it might just be sweet celery and fat.

Jane Grigson's Celery Soup from Food52

This is a thin soup, which might surprise you if you're not prepared. If you're in need of thick comfort, just add more potato or don't strain it. I preferred it thin -- the swishy broth makes it feel more refined, and its intensity all the more surprising; it also makes it easier to guzzle from a mug, alone.

Or, as Food52er muttersome, who sent me this recipe, wrote: "It would be just as perfect for serving as a first course at a sit-down dinner party as it is for slurping out of giant bowls (what we usually do)."

Since you won't be tweaking a thing last minute, you can get right to it.

Jane Grigson's Celery Soup from Food52

Jane Grigson's Celery Soup

Adapted slightly from Good Things (Bison Books, 2006)

Serves 4, 6 if the rest of the meal is fairly copious

1/2 pound celery, chopped (outside stalks or celeriac -- about 2 cups)
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup diced potato
6 tablespoons butter
4 cups turkey or chicken stock
1/2 to 1 cup milk (optional)
About 1 teaspoon dill weed (2 teaspoons for fresh dill)
2 1/2 tablespoons cream

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Got a genius recipe to share -- from a classic cookbook, an online source, or anywhere, really? Please send it my way (and tell me what's so smart about it) at [email protected]

Photos by James Ransom

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I'm an ex-economist, lifelong-Californian who moved to New York to work in food media in 2007, before returning to the land of Dutch Crunch bread and tri-tip barbecues in 2020. Dodgy career choices aside, I can't help but apply the rational tendencies of my former life to things like: recipe tweaking, digging up obscure facts about pizza, and deciding how many pastries to put in my purse for "later."


Kari2011 February 16, 2015
From Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything, I made a turnip purée soup this weekend that used a similar technique. He had a little less butter and the soup was delicious.
Mark M. February 16, 2015
You could probably use celery root/celeriac in lieu of the cream and dairy.
Joanne B. January 7, 2015
I've made this at least five times in the past few months. Always delicious even though I never add the cream. The immersion blender makes it smooth enough.
tamater S. March 18, 2014
We're having it for supper tonight. My husband's vegetarian, so the stock I used was chickpea broth to which I added a couple T's high quality (non-salty) bulk powder veg stock from our health food store. I've been making a variation on this for years, but never cooked the veg so gently, or added the butter at the beginning, which does work better. Lovely, thanks Kristen!
Boomer March 16, 2014
What do you do if you don't have a blender?
maeveoh March 16, 2014
Food processor in batches (depending on the size) or food mill? You could also just mash it up for as long as your patience allows, and eat it semi-chunky. Though it might be sacrilege.
Lina March 3, 2014
Looks sooo simple and absolutely amazing! Going to try it soon. Thank you for this wonderful recipe!
German February 12, 2014
Done it. Amazing. Thank you.
DTM February 10, 2014
You simply can't go wrong with Jane Grigson. Her books are among my most trusted. Thanks for a great recipe.
Muttersome February 7, 2014
Hooray! This soup deserves all the praise and more. FYI I have made this soup with less butter and I think it still tastes amazing. I often double the soup and keep the amount of butter the same, and though it may not be as rich, it is delicious.
May February 6, 2014
I LOVE Jane Grigson! One of the originals, up there with Julia Child and Elizabeth David. They were such cultured, intelligent women, who had a wonderful way with words, as well as being good cooks.
Kay-Lynne February 6, 2014
I teach "Healthy Foods" to middle school students, and have a "snow day" today, so I think I'll do little "research" and make this soup. What do you think of replacing the butter with olive oil? Maybe I'll try 3 T of each and see how it turns out...
Beckie F. February 6, 2014
I'd be interested to know how the butter/olive oil combo turns out. The butter makes the soup taste terrific, but I felt a tad guilty using 6 tbsp.
Redfox007 February 5, 2014
Rather than strain, how would running the contents through a blender after cooking first step work?
EatUrVeg February 5, 2014
Email arrived in my inbox and I knew what I was making for lunch. I adapted for my vegan family using Earth Balance 'butter' and adding more water instead of milk and cream at the end. Seriously delicious soup that was enjoyed by everyone home and over our house for a no-school, no-work snow day! Thanks!
Fiona M. February 5, 2014
One of my go to soups in bad weather. I used to travel a couple of hours on a choppy ferry and this was a soup I whipped up when I got home. Served with home-made granary bread it's bliss in a bowl
Nanette February 5, 2014
Ohhhh, yum! If it ever gets cold and rainy in Los Angeles this season, this soup is number one on my list. Reference to Jane Grigson made me smile. Her Vegetable Book has been a key reference on my shelf for over 30 years. I knew nothing about her, and this article caused me to seek her out on the web! Thanks again, Food52!
Beckie F. February 5, 2014
Silky, elegant and a refined creamy green. (Sounds like drapery, doesn't it?) But it's thoroughly delicious, and I haven't yet added the spoonful of cream to the bottom of the bowl. This site provides wonderfully curated recipes. Thank you.
MTaccia February 5, 2014
I just read an article on how celery can reduce high blood pressure and other healthy benefits. I wonder if this Celery Soup will qualify?

Jennifer February 5, 2014
Hahaha. This is providence. Just received two bunches of celery in my delivery yesterday. Your recipe couldn't have come at a better time. I have not been able to find too many recipes out there that call for entire bunch.
dymnyno February 5, 2014
The basic soup with onions, potatoes, butter and celery or leeks is one that I a making most often these days for my husband, who is taking many cancer drugs and painkillers . Spices and strong flavors just don't appeal to him anymore, but this simple soup does appeal to his appetite.
Angela @. February 5, 2014
Sorry to hear about your husband. He's lucky to have such a fine and thoughtful personal chef. Sending good thoughts your way.
maeveoh February 5, 2014
I LOOVE anything that makes celery a hero!
can't I use fresh dill? i love fresh dill on just about everything, and my boyfriend's ukrainian...
Kristen M. February 5, 2014
Yes, you can! Grigson actually allows for it, but says it's exceptionally good with dried dill (or chopped fresh fennel fronds -- twist!), and I happen to agree.