Photo ©Evie Saffron Strands
Beige, warty-skinned, a beard of tangled roots, Celeriac is a vegetable with a serious image problem. It’s a member of the Celery family but couldn’t look more different. If you’ve eaten Celeriac before, then you know how delicious this root can be. If you haven’t encountered it, or have felt it best to look away, let us convince you of its merits.
Along with a mild celery flavour, Celeriac has the earthiness you’d expect from a root vegetable but also a minerality and a slightly sweet nuttiness. It can be boiled, mashed, roasted, made into a soup or eaten raw, making it far more versatile than its strongly-flavoured cousin. The exposed flesh oxidises quickly, so, unless you are going to use it straight away, you need to drop prepared celeriac into acidulated water to prevent discolouration.
Celeriac makes a great mash, particularly when combined with an equal amount of potato. Enriched with butter and seasoned, it pairs well with beef and game dishes. Sliced and layered with an equal quantity of potatoes, a sliced fried onion and a sprig of thyme it works well as a gratin too. After layering, fill the dish half way up with vegetable or chicken stock, season, top with a little butter and bake in a medium oven, covered for 30 mins, then uncovered for a further 30 mins. It makes a very good soup married with potatoes, onion, garlic, chilli and stock then whizzed to a puree – a little cream and a topping of toasted hazelnuts or fried bacon is a good idea. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can bake a celeriac whole in a salt crust– maybe one best left to the chefs.
We really enjoy Celeriac in its raw state and it’s hard to beat the French classic Celeriac Remoulade – Mix the juice of 1 lemon, salt, pepper, 2-3 tablespoons Dijon mustard, 125ml mayonnaise, and 2 tablespoons of cream in a large bowl. Slice a medium sized celeriac into juilienne strips and add them immediately to the dressing. Serve alongside sliced cooked ham or top with sliced raw chestnuts mushrooms and roasted hazelnuts.
But here is our favourite raw salad: Mix a vinaigrette dressing using good olive oil and a fruity vinegar (quantities 3:1) to an emulsion. Add salt and pepper and some favourite chopped herbs. Grate roughly equal amounts of Celeriac, Apple and colourful Heritage Carrots into the dressing. Add chopped nuts and mix well.
Celeriac roots can stay in the ground right through winter if protected from prolonged frosts. They also sit happily in the fridge so are a great vegetable to keep in. At this time of year root vegetables come into their own, so next time you’re shopping with us you might want to take a fresh look at that beige, warty-skinned globe.