Creative food stylist Ajda Mehmet possesses the gift to create something tasteful out of literally anything. With us she shares her knowledge about uncommon but not forgotten vegetables along with the most delicious recipes to prepare them.
As we begin to crave food that warms and comforts us, celeriac is the vegetable that will remedy many a wintery night. Like most root veg it is capable of being prepared in many ways. It works great in soups and stews, chef’s love to puree it and when eaten raw you can’t beat a classic remoulade, crunchy and zingy with mustard. For me, it’s true sweetness and most delicious flavour comes only when it is roasted.
I am not sure if you agree but I think the worst thing about celeriac is having to peel the thing before you can do anything with it. All hairy roots and knobbly bits, if your vegetable peeler is sturdy enough to get through the rough exterior then you’re in luck. If not, you end up chopping away about a third of the vegetable just trying to get to that creamy white flesh.
Ottolenghi and I must be on the same wavelength. I’m taking pleasure in thinking that his Whole Roasted Celeriac recipe, from his cookbook NOPI, must have been born as a result of the the same frustrations in his kitchen peeling the “creature from outer space” as he refers to it, as I have had in mine.
He tells us how you can simply clean and trim the root, rub it in olive oil and sea salt and roast it slowly in the oven for 3 hours. The result is a revelation, especially when served whole, cut into wedges at the table and eaten with crème fraiche as he suggests.
Apart from saving you from the chore of peeling it, keeping the skin on means that the root retains all it’s moisture and flavour whilst being roasted, but it also provides a deliciously bitter addition to the sweet and nutty flesh. It really is the best way to eat it.
It was the Italians that first domesticated celeriac as a vegetable in the 1600’s. Originally from the Mediterranean basin, ancient literature documents state that celery was cultivated for medicinal purposes and used to treat ailments such as colds and flu, digestion problems and arthritis. It seems they weren’t far wrong, today we know that it contains a high percentage of vitamin K, helping to protect our bones from osteoporosis, vitamin B6 benefiting our cognitive and immune systems and plenty of fibre for healthy digestion.
Once you’ve tried Ottolenghi’s version, you can give this steak recipe a go too.
Roasted Celeriac Steak with Blue Cheese and a Fried Egg
1 large celeriac, trimmed, hairy roots discarded and cleaned
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp coarse sea salt
100g blue cheese, crumbled.
Place the celeriac on a small parchment-lined baking tray and rub all over the skin with olive oil and sea salt. Roast for 2/3 hours, until a knife inserted into the flesh goes in very easily.
Slice the celeriac into 1 inch thick steaks. Melt the butter in a large frying pan and caramelize the steaks on a high heat for a couple of minutes on each side. In a separate pan fry the eggs in a little olive oil until the whites are crispy and the yolk is still runny.
To serve, place a steak on each plate, drizzle over any remaining melted butter from the pan, sprinkle over some blue cheese and top with the fried egg.
*NOPI, The Cookbook can be found here