Not exactly blessed with beauty, celeriac looks very like one of the gentle and telepathic alien species, the Ood from Dr Who on an off day. It possesses inner loveliness though, once you get past the knobbly, gnarly exterior, there are treats in store: the flavour is surprisingly delicate, crisp, sweet and fresh raw with a gentle taste of celery and a hint of apple. Once cooked it softens and becomes nutty, savoury and mellow.
Brutti ma buoni, as the Italians say: ugly, but good!
Eat it grated raw or cut into matchsticks with mayonnaise or French dressing; or boil and mash on its own or half and half with potato. Cubes of celeriac are terrific in stews and it makes a wonderful soup. You can turn it into chips or delicious crisps and even rice it like cauliflower. I have a very nice apple and celeriac cake recipe (yes, really!) I might post one of these days . . . .
Closely related to celery, aka ‘turnip rooted celery’, celeriac is endlessly adaptable and a brilliant vegetable to grow at home for winter harvesting.
Popular on the Continent, especially in France and Germany, it’s time it was more widely appreciated in Britain.
Celeriac works in most stews and casseroles and especially loves Cheddar and blue cheese, celery, walnuts, ham, bacon, potatoes and apples.
Peeling and Cutting Tips
The surface of celeriac is a bit too uneven for a regular vegetable peeler. Instead, slice skin and bits of root away with a sharp knife. Rubber gloves are handy for extra grip. Exposed white flesh can oxidise and turn brown quickly so squeeze with lemon juice particularly if serving raw. Peel and grate or cut into matchsticks for salads. Cube or dice for cooking.
Slicing and Dicing Tips
A good chef’s knife with a standard 20cm blade will make slicing and dicing celeriac easy.
Cut into small dice and add to slow cooked casseroles and curries for an extra layer of flavour.
Blanching and Freezing Celeriac
Blanch batches of diced celeriac and freeze in sealed freezer bags to use later.
Here’s how: submerge the celeriac dice in boiling water for 1 minute in a colander inside a large bowl. Lift out and plunge into icy water for another minute.
Drain, pat dry and store in sealed freezer bags. Keep the bags flat if you can.
Use from frozen to enhance your stews and curries.
Your Essential Celeriac Preparation Kit
A good chef’s knife with a standard 20cm blade and a comfortable handle will make slicing and dicing the hard flesh easy.
Use rubber gloves for a better grip when slicing.
Have a lemon handy for squeezing over the exposed flesh: celeriac oxidises and turns brown easily.
(Keep a Jif lemon in the fridge for those ‘oh dear, I don’t seem to have a lemon’ moments.)
Celeriac Soup: a hug in a bowl with cheese or croutons
This is the perfect winter soup: comforting and nourishing, thick and smooth, but with a little bit of texture and the most gorgeous flavour. Definitely one to warm the cockles of your heart as my grandma used to say (and what are the cockles of your heart when they’re at home?)
Cheese or Croutons? How will you serve yours?
A spoonful of finely grated mature Cheddar cheese finishes the soup beautifully, giving it a fabulous flavour and velvety texture but it’s equally lovely left plain with some toasted croutons bobbing about on the surface, gradually sinking into the soup as the bread absorbs more and more of the flavoursome liquid.
Cut a thick slice of bread, toast lightly, cut into cubes and shallow fry in hot oil until golden.
Whoever first said ‘soup is like a hug in a bowl’ knew a thing or two!
1 onion, diced
1 large stick of celery, including leaf, diced
1 tablespoon each butter and oil
½ medium celeriac (around 500g) peeled and diced
600-700g potatoes, peeled and diced
Freshly ground black and ground white pepper
1 litre hot vegetable (or chicken) stock
Approximately 4 dessertspoons of finely grated Cheddar cheese (use fine side of grater)
Crusty bread and celery sticks for dipping
Heat butter and oil in a deep pan and fry onion and celery slowly until soft.
Add remaining vegetables, turning to coat. Season generously with pepper and add stock.
Turn up heat and bring to near boiling. Reduce heat and simmer for around 30 minutes until potatoes and celeriac are soft.
Transfer to blender or food processor with half cooking liquid and process until smooth. Add more liquid if necessary. Return to washed pan and reheat until piping hot.
Pour into warm bowls and serve as it is or stir a spoonful of cheese into each.
Serve with crusty bread on the side and celery sticks for dipping.
Knorr Vegetable Gel Stock Pots
For the past few years I’ve been very enamoured of Knorr Vegetable Gel Stock Pots and happily they are:
Free from artificial colours
Free from artificial preservatives
Free from flavour enhancers
Suitable for vegetarians and vegans
No added MSG
Although I make my own stock quite frequently, these lovely little pots of flavour are so nice and so handy to keep in the cupboard. I never use the meaty ones but the herb ones sound interesting.
You can make them up as stock with water or stir them straight into your vegetable base or mirepoix and add vegetable cooking water later.
Sometimes just half a pot is enough: you can wrap the other half and store it in the fridge. If I had any small criticism at all, it might be they are just a teeny tiny fraction too salty but apart from that, thank you Knorr, for such a great product!