Let's hear it for ... celeriac

By Monica Shaw •


Celeriac is not the most attractive of vegetables in its natural knobbly looking state, however Monica Shaw believes it's one that shouldn't be overlooked.  Discover her tips for preparing and cooking celeriac dishes including a delicious recipe for celeriac soup with walnut and parsley pesto.

If ever there was an underdog (under root?) of the vegetable world it's celeriac, the knobbly root vegetable that's so often overlooked at the supermarket. And if it does catch our eye, it's because it's so alien looking, covered in obscene appendages, mud-filled crevices and warty protrusions. By appearance alone, celeriac looks neither easy to work with nor enjoyable to taste, so why bother? 

Because celeriac is actually pretty special.

Raw, celeriac has fantastic crunch and a super nutty, celery-like flavour that makes it perfect for salads and slaws. Cooked, it takes on a slight sweetness that works well mashed, baked, roasted or boiled. It all adds up to celeriac being an extraordinarily versatile vegetable that's worth adding to your winter repertoire.

How to prepare it

For all its gnarly bits, celeriac isn't actually that hard to work with. The key is to not be too precious about losing a bit of flesh.

Use a good knife to top and tail the celeriac, then continue around the celeriac slicing off the rest of the skin.  You can now chop the celeriac into whatever sort of pieces you need: chunks, slices or strips depending on the recipe. Just be aware that celeriac discolours quickly so once sliced, immerse the celeriac pieces into a bowl of water with a squeeze of lemon juice or splash white wine vinegar.

How to use it

I've recently been discovering celeriac's marvelous uses as an addition to salads. Celeriac remoulade is the classic preparation, a simple salad of celeriac, mayonnaise, mustard and lemon juice. But it's worth branching out and trying some more unusual recipes. I hugely enjoyed Yotam Ottolenghi's Apple and Celeriac Salad with quinoa and poppy seeds, a sweet-and-sour slaw that hits you like a pleasant surprise. It also looks beautiful, and will likely have a place on my Christmas table this year.

Celeriac is worth cooking with, as well. You can treat it like any root veg. Roast it as you would potatoes. Boil it and mash it with other root vegetables, or on its own. My favourite use of cooked celeriac so far is celeriac soup, posted below and adapted from the River Cottage. It's a simple soup, where celeriac and stock vegetables get cooked on the stovetop, boiled with vegetable stock and then pureed. But what really makes the soup shine is the dollop of parsley walnut pesto that goes on the soup at the end, an addition whose lemony texture and walnutty crunch provide the perfect balance to this creamy, earthy vegetarian soup.

Celeriac Soup with Parsley Walnut Pesto

Ingredients

For the soup:

25g Butter or oil

Celeriac, peeled and cubed

1 Potato, peeled and cubed

2 celery stalks, sliced

1 Leek, trimmed, washed and roughly sliced

1 Onion, peeled and roughly chopped

1 Garlic clove, sliced

1 litre vegetable stock

For the parsley pesto:

100g walnuts, toasted

1 fat garlic clove garlic, peeled and roughly chopped

50g flat-leaf parsley leaves

About 150ml good olive oil

Juice of 1/2 lemon

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method

For the pesto:

  1. Put the walnuts and garlic into a food processor and process until finely chopped – but still with some granular texture.
  2. Add the parsley and blitz again to chop the leaves, then begin trickling in the oil while the processor runs. Stop when you have a sloppy purée. 
  3. Taste, season as necessary with lemon juice, salt and pepper.

For the soup:

  1. Heat the butter or oil in a large, heavy-based pot over a medium-low heat. Add the celeriac, leek, potato, garlic and onion, season generously, and gently sweat the vegetables until they’re all starting to soften (this will take about 10 minutes).
  2. Add the stock, bring the soup up to a boil, turn down the heat and simmer for about 20 minutes or until the celeriac is completely tender. Liquidise in a blender until smooth, return to the pan and reheat over a medium flame. Just before serving, check the soup for seasoning and serve with a drizzle of pesto.

Now there's no excuse to pass over this vegetable and for more inspiration, visit our collection of celeriac recipes including Josh Eggleton's delicious gluten free bread sauce.

Comments


Monica Shaw

Monica Shaw is web consultant working with chefs, restaurants & food producers, to help them make use of the internet to improve their businesses. She's also a freelance writer, her credits include The Daily Telegraph, Chef Magazine and food mag. Monica enjoys experimenting with vegetables & creating delicious & healthy dishes, a topic covered on her blog SmarterFitter.com. She is working on The Healthy Vegan Breakfast Book, due to be published in March 2013

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