celeriac: beauty in the beast

 

celeriac: aka celery root

They say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder and when it comes to celeriac and I think they hit the nail right on the head. As Jared Ingersoll describes it in his great little cookbook: Danks Street Depot, ‘it’s a lumpy, warty looking beast with a sweet, aromatic delicious flesh – beauty in the beast’.

Jared isn’t the only one to publicly shame celeriac for it’s looks, or lack there of.  Maggie Beer has labelled it a ‘prehistoric looking vegetable’ and Stephanie Alexander has likened it’s warty exterior to the Big Bad Banksia men from May Gibbs’ classic Australian children’s books: Snuggle Pot and Cuddle Pie.

Yet while it probably isn’t going to win any beauty pageants, there’s no denying that celeriac is one tasty winter vegetable. It’s most famous manifestation is in the classic French salad celeriac remoulade (for my version click HERE). But this versatile vegetable works pretty much anywhere that you’d use potatoes. It tends to be sweeter and less starchy than spuds so makes for a lighter version of your classic mash and works wonderfully roasted especially when teamed with it’s good mate parsnip.

To really showcase celeriac as the star of the show, what better than a warming celeriac soup accompanied by tangy worcestershire sauce. This is one of those great combinations that isn’t obvious at first but tastes amazing and makes you wonder…why didn’t I think of that?….. The silky sweetness of the pure white soup beautifully contrasts the dirty pungency of the spicy sauce…..all good things….
celeriac & worcestershire sauce soup
serves 2

I’ve slightly adapted this from the Jeremy Strode recipe in Two’s Cooking by removing the potato (I have a phobia about pureeing potato in soups….one of my biggest disasters in recent history was a gluey gluggy winter vegetable soup that I had pureed, despite my apprehensions about the amount of potato present…lesson learned!). I loved Jeremy’s idea of using water not stock to keep the sweet celeriac flavour the star of the show.

1T olive oil
20g butter
1/2 small brown onion, chopped
1 small leek, white part chopped
1 stick celery, chopped
1 small celeriac approx 600g, peeled and diced
1C milk
worcestershire sauce, to serve

Heat oil and butter in a medium saucepan over a low to medium heat and add onion, leek, celery and celeriac. Cover and sweat, stirring occasionally until onion is very soft but not brown, approx 20mins.

Add 3C water and 1C milk and simmer for a further 20mins or until celeriac is very soft. Puree with a stick blender (or in batches with a regular blender). Season if desired (I didn’t use any salt in this as I really loved the sweetness of the celeriac). Divide between two large soup bowls and serve drizzled with the worcestershire sauce and extra sauce passed separately.

worcestershire sauce w celeriac soup

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