Last week I bought a celeriac. Supermarket celeriacs are washed, topped and tailed and shrink-wrapped in enough plastic to kill a dolphin. I bought mine from a greengrocer: it was a knobbly, earth-encrusted thing with rather unpleasant roots dangling like dead tentacles. Ideal for drawing, in fact.
I find myself buying things to draw which I either don’t know what to do with after the event or don’t have the time to make into jam or chutney. Happily, I always know what to do with a celeriac. It can be made into a very tasty remoulade which really needs to be eaten almost immediately as it absorbs the mayonnaise and becomes a claggy mess. Or it can be made into a wonderful soup – ideal for this time of year – as in this recipe from Thomasina Miers.
Finely chop an onion and sweat it in butter on a low heat for a few minutes, along with a bay leaf, fresh thyme leaves and a pinch of salt. Peel and chop a large potato and the celeriac into chunks, stir into the buttery onions and add one litre of good quality – home made preferably – vegetable stock, bring to the boil and then turn down to a simmer.
Allow the vegetables to cook in the stock for about 45 minutes until tender and then blitz with a hand blender until smooth. Season to taste.
Add 100g of crème fraiche, the juice of half a lemon and about a tablespoon of Dijon or wholegrain mustard. Stir to combine and add water if you prefer a looser consistency. The soup should be served with a few more fresh thyme leaves scattered on top and grilled cheese toasts on the side (smoked cheddar cheese is especially tasty).
You can’t say you don’t learn things on this blog.
For the second week running I was struggling with an acrylic painting.
These multi-coloured radishes on their off-white plate, with a lightly-chequered cloth in the background, were going well. I tried the top third of the painting in sap green, then yellow ochre, and neither looked right. It was time to take a break and put together a lasagne for supper.
I was stirring the bechamel sauce, listening to a wonderful piece of music by Anna Meredith (Blackfriars) on the radio and gazing at a collage by a dear friend of ours, Sarah Banbery, which hangs near the stove. Collage, that was the answer.
As the lasagne baked I added the page of Spanish text taken from a damaged book I use for such things, painted over it with white acrylic, added some lines in pastel, and the picture was done.
The ways of creativity are often unfathomable, I find. Thanks to Anna Meredith’s meditative piece for strings and the rhythmic stirring of a sauce, I entered the relaxed frame of mind to be inspired by Sarah’s collage.
I’ve recycled an awful lot of watercolour and pastel paper these past couple of weeks.
Perhaps it’s the weather or the time of year, but inspiration has been thin on the ground. Last week I tried a pastel drawing of a celeriac on a pale background, thinking the combination of whites, off whites, pale yellows and pale greys might produce something interesting. It didn’t. That might work if you’re Basil Blackshaw or Aubrey Levinthal , but not for me. At least not now.