Food Hero- Celeriac

cccCeleriac, or if you prefer (and who wouldn’t) Knob Celery. *insert gales of childish giggling here*. A hefty root vegetable from the celery family which yields a bulbous root structure or ‘hypocotyl’ which looks marvellously like a dirt encrusted brain and tastes pretty good too. Celeriac grows pretty much anywhere but is thought to have originated in the Mediteranean basin somewhere. But why should you care?

The Science Bit: Celeriac is rich in fibre, Vitamin K, Vitamin C, B Complex constituents and dietary iron, copper, phosphorous and calcium- all of which sums up to healthy bones and boosted immunity. It has been suggested (still under study) that the high level of scary sounding poly-acetylene anti-oxidant compounds found in natural abundance in celeriac are cancer fighting and potentially very effective in preventing colon cancer and different types of leukemia.  As well as being nutritionally sound, celeriac is one hardy bulbous dude, with a shelf life of a couple of months if you keep it right (not too hot, cold or dry) and dieters love its low calorie and low starch levels. Some nutritionists also sing of its ability to stave off hunger pangs, but that is true of most veg with a high water content.

I love celeriac, despite how popular it is in puree form by trendy wannabe masterchef types. I’m a big fan of celery, particularly cooked up but celeriac has a slightly milder peppery kick and and a really lovely texture when cooked down without the odd stringy bit that is hard to avoid in bog standard celery. And lets be honest, sometimes celery is a bit of a chore, probably because it’s touted so much as heath food and served by our Aunties alongside our favourite dips in the space where the kettle chips should be. Celeriac is more pleasing, comforting, a huggy round ball of creamy loveliness opposing the stiff, woody moral highground of celery. Plus, it looks like a brain!!!!
If vitamin content and butt-shrinking possibilities aren’t your thing and you care more about the eating experience, then look no further than this little beauty. Versatility doesn’t quite cover it- in simple terms you can eat it cooked or raw so no great surprise there but the texture and unique flavour of celeriac lends it to so many culinary opportunities. Yes, you can be a trendy wannabe masterchef type and make some kind of puree to smear on a plate if you wish, but why not bake it, boil it for mash, sautee with butter and load of black pepper, chunk out your curry or smooth out a soup. Make it into a chutney with onions and ginger or keep it raw and add to coleslaws, salads or even be really trendy and knock up a ‘celeriac tartare‘. Having a peppery base flavour it goes well with the more mustardy accompaniments including watercress, onions, black pepper and, er, mustard. But it is also highly complimented by your sharper sweet notes, like apples and fennel. And, it looks just like a brain!!!!!!

Like most produce you will get celeriac year round now but it’s natural season is early autumn up to November and that is when you will find this wunderveg at it’s best. I shall leave you with my favourite celeriac outing, comforting in the colder months and also very friendly to the dieters out there at roughly 250 cals a serving by my calculations.

Braaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaains.

Boom Boom Celeriac Soup

Celeriac Soup. Not my finest photograhic moment, but I was hungry! Yes, I know there is a chip in my bowl :-(

Celeriac Soup. Not my finest photograhic moment, but I was hungry! Yes, I know there is a chip in my bowl 😦

Serves 4

1 celeriac bulb, roughly 800g
4 carrots
2 white onions
One head of celery, leaves included
Six cloves of garlic
Sunflower oil for frying
1-2tsp White pepper
3-4 tsp Curry powder
Sea salt
Stock (chicken or vegetable)

Start off scrubbing and peeling your celeriac- you’ll probably want a small knife rather than a conventional peeler as this skin is quite thick. Some of the little crevices and nobbly bits (it looks like a brain) are hard to get the dirt out of so you might want to cut these out and discard.
Heat your oil then add the white pepper and curry powder. I tend to be heavy handed with the pepper and use a medium hot curry powder, but then I like it warm so if you’re a sensitive type maybe use lower quantities. Add in your chopped  onion and garlic and fry off for a few minutes until the onion is just starting to soften, then add the carrots and celeriac. Continue to heat through for another five minutes then add the celery, give it a good stir then cover in the stock- I like Kallo organic vegetable stock but chicken works well too. Bring to the boil, then cover and leave to simmer for about 15 minutes until the carrots are tender.
Leave it to cool for at least ten minutes, then blend together either with a food processor or hand blender. Taste, season to your liking with more pepper and a touch of sea salt (Maldon sea salt is best!!!) then reheat and serve. Enjoy!

Variations- You could add some apples or pear rather than the carrots and onions and swap the spices for some freshly ground nutmeg for a sweeter finish. To go indulgent cook off some lardons or good smoked bacon in your pan before starting then use the rendered bacon fat to fry your veg in, adding the bacon pieces back just before serving. Delicious!

thanks as ever to http://www.wikipedia.org/ for some fun facts.

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