The Frog Prince
"There once was an ugly ducklingWith feathers all stubby and brown"
Knobby, gnarly, warts and all - welcome celeriac,unknown and unloved like the ugly duckling, the unsung frog prince of winter vegetables. Pare off its warty exterior and you'll uncover the most royal of vegetables within: a perfect, ivory-fleshed, winter alternative to potatoes and other starches.Celeriac is a historic European favourite. The vegetable's most classic employment is in the cold French salad celerie remoulade, in which the root is peeled, grated, "cooked" in lemon juice (or blanched briefly in acidulated water) to lose a bit of its rawness, then dressed with a mustardy mayonnaise.Still not interested? Bear with,bear with. When peeled, the celery root's creamy white flesh resembles that of a turnip and tastes like a subtle blend of celery and parsley. Additionally, half a cup contains only 30 calories, no fat and provides an excellent source of dietary fiber.Now you like?
"All through the wintertime he hid himself awayThis time of year, celeriac can be a perfect non-starch substitute for potatoes in a warming meal, and can be prepared in a similar way. Mashed, shaped into batons and boiled, or even French fried, celery root can provide a winning accompaniment to a fresh green vegetable or salad and anything roasted or grilled.
Ashamed to show his face, afraid of what others might say
All through the winter in his lonely clump of wheat
Till the organic farmers spied him there and very soon agreed
You’re a very fine vegetable indeed!"
Celeriac gives a whole new meaning to oven chips and with a dash of Marsala wine or with a simple twist of curry powder you´re lifting your side order to another level.As the celeriac roasts, it absorbs some of the raisiny flavour of the marsala (but not the alcohol, which just burns off), while caramelising to a golden, sticky brownness.Use a paring knife, rather than a peeler when peeling the root. Shave downwards with the blade in broad strokes to remove the thick skin.Once peeled, chop slice or shave bits from the celeriac and drop them into a bowl of acidulated water (water into which some lemon juice has been squeezed) immediately after cutting to prevent discoloration. Even if you are planning to fry or bake the celeriac later, parboiling it first for 5 or 10 minutes in acidulated water will soften its raw edge.When peeled and cooked, this ugly duckling vegetable will become a true culinary swan, as I recently found in this stunning and modern Portuguese take on celeriac by Rafael Pinto.