Tuesday, May 1, 2007


It’s an ugly brute celeriac, heavy to hold, gnarled and scarred.

Those roots are a tangled mess. But beneath that rough exterior lurks an ever-so-slightly pale green flesh that quickly oxidizes on contact with the air. The thick skin it would seem shields a very sensitive creature indeed.

The celeriac was a last minute purchase on Saturday at the market. I was actually looking for some witlof to braise with slivers of sun-dried tomato, garlic and the last of the preserved lemons. Instead, I came home with this swollen root, leaves still proudly standing to attention on top. Though they wilted within two days, the root was happy to sit on the bench without them. What to cook?

There are many choices of course: with its close cousin celery in a savory, wholemeal bread and pecorino-topped crumble; cooked with green lentils, garlic and herbs; a soup perhaps? But with a sudden and unexpected downpour of rain, a gratin was calling.

Combined with earthy porcini mushrooms, onion, garlic and licorice-scented star anise, it is a beast transformed. The porcini are soaked in brandy, tamari and boiling water. Simmered in stock until tender and finished with a little cream, this is a delicious meal. Though I’d like to claim this as my own (it’s very, very good) I can’t and won’t even try. It comes from the incredible and exotic Nadine Abensur. Though the recipe appears in her latest book Enjoy (and you should look for it – there’s not a dud in the whole thing) you’ll find the recipe on this site where there’s a printer-friendly version.

Keep a large bowl of cold water, acidulated with the juice of a lemon or lime next to you as you slice the beast. Dunk slices in as they are cut to stop them turning an unsightly shade of grey. I used cheddar rather than gruyere, just scattered it on top of the dish before serving and naturally halved the recipe as there were just the two of us.

That means that I still have half a celeriac to go.

Reckon that crumble sounds good.


kitchen hand said...

The celeriac looks like a medieval still-life painting. The recipe sounds great.

Lucy said...

Yeah, it's kind of dramatic lighting. Tried to get the shots in between the clouds covering the sun. Autumn and the end of daylight saving means I have to get in early, well before I actually start cooking!

Recipe is really, really good kitchenhand.

Truffle said...

Brilliant post. You're making me want to go out and buy one!

Lucy said...

Hi Truffle - you should!

Susan said...

I've been debating celeriac for the longest time, resistant to a blade as hubbard squash and rutabaga, but aren't these among the healthiest of the garden goblins? I'm ready now. Thanks to the inventive recipe you've introduced and my committed desire to eat more veggies. Your photos, Lucy, look like they were shot during an eclipse. Stunning.

Lucy said...

Susan, it's true that those veggies that seem so goddam hard to face are indeed nutrient-dense. Glad you're enjoying the veg.

She really is an ugly beast, but worth the effort.

Kristen said...

I have never even heard of celriac. Very interesting! Thanks for the great post and education.

Lucy said...

Kristen, you might also know it as celery root. Hope you find one.

Adski said...

Hi Lucy,
I hadn't come across your blog today, but am really liking it! Loving the photos - keep up the great work!

Freya and Paul said...

The photos are stunning! I have only cooked with celeriac once and I think I almost obliterated it in a gratin. Must give it a go in a salad!