The many culinary uses of this versatile vegetable mean it's beautiful on the inside, says former Sienna chef-proprietor Russell Brown
Considered by most of us to be a root vegetable, the celeriac is, in scientific terms, a swollen stem, or hypocotyl. The vegetable itself acts as a storage organ for the plant, and it is topped with stems and leaves, much like ordinary celery.
The Royal Horticultural Society has conducted extensive trials on growing celeriac for its Award of Garden Merit using the following criteria: yield, appearance, taste, bulb colour, smoothness of skin, uniformity, size and shape of bulb and texture. Monarch, Prinz, Rowena, Neon and Sisko are all varieties that have received the award.
The most common uses for celeriac are soups and purées, but there are many more options. It can be roasted, used in gratins or casseroles, eaten raw, pickled, or made into vegetable crisps. Salt-baking, either in a salt dough or a mixture of salt and egg white, is popular and produces an intense flavour. Cooking cubes of celeriac sous vide gives a very even texture.
Celeriac contains relatively high amounts of sodium, so if you are boiling it or cooking it in a gratin, be aware of the level of seasoning required. For purées, part milk and part water is a good option, as well as reducing the celeriac cooking liquid to add to the purée to maximise the flavour. Michel Guérard's recipe for celeriac purée includes rice to give creaminess without adding a large amount of fat.
Thin discs of celeriac, either blanched in boiling water or cut from a salt-baked vegetable, can be used as a pasta substitute in recipes such as that from Matthew Tompkinson of Montagu Arms Beaulieu's oxtail and celeriac lasagne with horseradish cream, and Cass Titcombe at Brassica in Beaminster uses celeriac in a gratin flavoured with thyme, garlic and horseradish and served with venison.
The earthy, slightly sweet and nutty flavour of celeriac pairs well with truffles and is a natural accompaniment to game dishes.
Buying and storage tips
- Store at low temperatures, between 0Â°C and 5Â°C.
- Unlike most roots, celeriac does not keep well for long periods, so buy little and often.
- Check that the vegetable is firm.
- Avoid celeriac with soft brown patches.
- A clean, relatively smooth skin and even shape will improve yield.
- Celeriac should feel heavy for its size.
Russell Brown ran the Michelin-starred, three-AA-rosette Sienna restaurant in Dorchester, Dorset, for 12 years with his wife Eléna. He launched his website and consultancy business Creative about Cuisine earlier this year. He specialises in restaurant consultancy and photography. www.creativeaboutcuisine.com
The UK celeriac season starts in mid to late October and runs for three to four months. Initially, the vegetable may be sold with its leaves, but as they start to wither they are cut off. Current prices are £1.20-£2, according to size. Celeriac are generally sold by the piece, not by weight.
Celeriac and apple gratin
Serves 10 as a garnish
- 1kg whole celeriac
- 500g potatoes, such as Estima or Melody
- 2 Cox's apples
- 2tbs olive oil
- 1 large onion, sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 300ml double cream
- Maldon sea salt and fresh ground black pepper
- 4tbs fresh brown breadcrumbs
Peel the celeriac, quarter and slice thinly. Peel the potatoes and slice into 2mm rounds. Peel the apples, cut in half, core and slice thinly.
In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil and add the onion and garlic with a pinch of salt. Add the sliced celeriac and potato. Continue to cook, stirring for a couple of minutes. Add the cream, bring to a simmer, then season well. The starch from the potatoes will begin to thicken the cream; at this point, taste the cream to assess the seasoning and adjust as required.
Tip half the mix into a roasting tin or gratin dish and smooth out. Spread the apple slices over in an even layer and then top with the remaining celeriac mix. Smooth out and scatter the breadcrumbs over the surface.
Bake at 180Â°C for 20 minutes and then reduce the temperature to 150Â°C and cook for a further 20 minutes until the vegetables have cooked through and the gratin is golden brown.
Rare roast beef with celeriac rémoulade
For the beef
- 600g trimmed fillet tail
- Olive oil for frying
- Maldon sea salt and fresh ground black pepper
For the rémoulade
- 750g whole celeriac
- 1dsp sea salt
- 3tbs mayonnaise
- 1tbs crème fraÁ®che
- 1 heaped tsp grain mustard
- 1dsp good olive oil
- 1tsp lemon juice plus extra to taste
- Maldon salt and fresh ground black pepper
- Parmesan shavings
- 1 bunch of watercress, picked and washed
- Micro rocket
For the beef, season the fillet tails heavily with coarse ground pepper and Maldon salt. Press the seasoning into the meat by rolling the fillet on a tray to create a thin crust. Heat the oil in a heavy-based frying pan and sear the beef to achieve a well-caramelised crust. Finish in the oven for a couple of minutes if necessary. Remove to a cooling rack and allow to rest.
For the rémoulade, peel the celeriac and cut in half. Roughly square off the pieces and then slice into 2mm thick slices. Cut the slices across to form matchsticks 2mm square. In a bowl, mix the celeriac, the dessertspoon of sea salt and two tablespoons of water. Mix well and leave to salt for an hour to soften the celeriac slightly. Rinse off and squeeze dry in a clean tea towel.
Mix the rest of the ingredients for the dressing together and add the celeriac, coating thoroughly. Adjust the seasoning with salt, pepper, lemon juice and more mustard.
To serve, slice the beef thinly, and lay a line of rémoulade down the centre of each plate. Scatter over some watercress and arrange the beef slices across the top. Finish with micro rocket and Parmesan shavings.
Meat kindly supplied byWalter Rose & Son