Celestial Celeriac

If I’m honest with myself, the title of this has been chosen purely for the alliteration value. ‘Celestial’ may be a splash on the farcical side in relation to a root vegetable. But then again, Celeriac puree is a thing of divine wonder, so maybe I’m onto something!

 

It’s unrealistic my January will be ‘dry’. Unless of course we are talking about the glorious British weather, in which case it will be characteristically damp. No, my Janurary’s are rarely tainted with resolutions of clean eating, calorie controlled diets or total booze bans. I have however, made a resolution of sorts. To cook foods I often look at in the shop, stare blankly at, and then walk on by. In other words, I plan to overcome my phobias of using certain ingredients, as all too often, I base this on their unfortunate appearance. So, last night I got to work creating something with celeriac. A root vegetable that looks part turnip, part ood (Doctor Who reference, I’m sorry). I implore you to try this one for yourself, even if it’s just to make some puree. Divine wonder, I’m telling you. 

 

 

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It’s easy, delicious, and is a good seasonal variation of a classic dish.

 

Serves 5/6

 

Ingredients:

 

For the celeriac elements:

 

1 Celeriac

¼ of a pack of butter

½ a pint of full fat milk

Olive oil (for roasting)

Thyme (fresh if possible)

4 Portobella Mushrooms

Handful of toasted, and roughly chopped hazelnuts (optional)

 

1 Baking tray

1 Blender

1 Pan

Foil

 

For the risotto:

 

1 pack of risotto rice

25g butter

Olive oil

2 cloves of garlic

1 white onion

Glass of white wine

2.5 litres of hot veg stock

Parmesan

 

1 Large pan

1 Medium pan (for stock)

 

CELERIAC ELEMENTS

 

Start of by prepping the Celeriac.

 

Cut of the top and bottom (the bottom bit is the bit that looks like the ood). This helps peeling the vegetable, as you’ll now have a flat surface to work with.

Using a sharp knife, peel the celeriac.

 

Once peeled cut down the middle and place flat side down, so again you have a steady flat surface to work with.

 

With one half, chop into 1-2cm squared pieces (or there abouts – just nice bite-sized chunks), and place on a baking tray that is lined with foil. Season, drizzle with oil and sprinkle on some sprigs of thyme. With a utensil, or your hands, mix this all together, and then cover with foil. It’s good to cover the celeriac chunks with foil, as they take a while to roast, and may burn easily. Leave on 180 for about 30 mins, or until they are soft and cooked through. 5 minutes to the end I took the top layer of foil of, to give them a bit of colour.

In the same roasting tray you could also add portobello mushrooms if you wanted them as a garnish. I put them in their own foil cocoon though.

 

With the other half, also cut into chunks.

In a pan put your butter.

You can simply melt the butter and then add the chunks of celeriac and season. Do this on a mid-high heat, ensuring the butter or celeriac doesn’t burn of course, but that they do get some colour.

If you are feeling fancy, you can melt the butter, but then turn the heat up (before you add the celeriac), to create a buerre noisette. Here you are simply browning the butter too add some more nutty flavours to the butter. Keep the butter on a high heat, ensure it doesn’t burn, then once it has gone a deep golden brown colour, add the celeriac chunks and season.

 

Buerre Noisette or not, once the celeriac is in, cook it in the pan till all the chunks are gorgeous and golden. This should take about 15mins. Remember to stir it as well, so they don’t catch at the bottom.

 

Once the celeriac is golden and caramelised in the pan, turn the heat right down and add the milk. You only need to add enough milk to cover the veg. For me this was about ½ a pint, but this will alter on the size of your pan. Then, staying on a low heat, gently cook the celeriac through. Once the chunks are soft (15 odd mins), it is done and you can turn off the heat. As this is the pureed celeriac, ensure they are pretty soft, as your about to blitz them in a blender.

 

Drain the celeriac chunks but REMEMBER to keep the milk that you cooked them in, so put a sieve/colander over a large bowl, and drain into that. Blend the cooked celeriac pieces in your food processor and season to taste. If the mixture is not smooth or too thick, add a little of the saved milk. Add this until the puree is a smooth consistency.

 

So your celeriac elements are done. Hallelujah. No, it might sound slightly laborious, but I can promise you it’s not.

 

Once these are done, you can crack on making your risotto. You just want to make a classic white risotto.

 

If of course you feel cooked-out, thin the puree out a little using more of the same cooking milk, and you have a banging soup. Top with roasted celeriac pieces and toasted nuts and seeds.

 

RISOTTO

 

Start by softening the onion and garlic in your butter and a healthy glug or two of olive oil on a low heat.

 

Once softened, add the risotto rice and turn up the heat. You can also add a little more oil at this stage if the rice is sticking. Heat/ toast  the rice for a few minutes, (it will begin to go translucent). Keep stirring!

 

Then add your wine and cook down a little to let the alcohol evaporate. Keep stirring!

 

Once done you can then begin by adding the stock. It’s best to keep the stock in pan on a low heat to keep it hot. Slowly ladle by ladle, add the stock to the rice, stir continuously.

 

Once the rice has absorbed the stock, add more. Keep stirring!

 

Keep doing this until the rice is al dente (cooked, but still has a bite to it).

When at this stage, you can add the celeriac puree in the mixture, as well as 2 handfuls of parmesan cheese. Taste for seasoning and add more butter or cheese if you wish here, but the celeriac makes it pretty creamy.

Ensure the rice is nicely cooked through (still slightly al dente), then serve.

 

I served mine with roasted celeriac pieces on  top, roasted portobello mushrooms and toasted and roughly chopped hazelnuts for a little crunch.

 

Serve immediately, and with a bowl of grated parmesan for those who need an extra cheese hit (me) and rocket salad.

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Merci.

 

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Farewell Stoned Fruits.

I am a firm believer in eating and shopping locally, and in doing so, cooking in season. Whilst there are exceptions to every rule, it’s a sound starting point to cooking healthier, more sustainable and ethically better food. By shopping outside the faceless chains, you are supporting local people and businesses, and helping variety and character to flourish in your area.

I am however going to cut short my rant, and break right out into a recipe section. This is through anxiety that the season is nearly over for some of my favourite fruits, and as they are on the way out (and often, no longer in their prime), I have some recipes to make the most of their final days in our shops. So, without further ado, STONED FRUIT.

Eating seasonally is great, but suffice to say, it has it’s ups and downs. The main down being when you have just got used to your favourite thing hanging around, being all delicious and readily available, then bamm, it no longer is. I feel this pain with many things, most notably, certain mushrooms (weird, I know), asparagus, blood oranges and stoned fruits.

If like me, your emotions are driven substantially by regular (delicious) food interludes, then you too, need to cook your way out that funk.

This recipe can be used for any stoned fruit (peach, plum, apricot, nectarines), but many will only be around till the end of September. These tend to be imported produce, so with these fruits, focus on the ‘local’ shop, rather than the place of origin (get British plums though!). They are still in season, and England never grows them, so we are going to have to get over that. If you have any queries about what you should be using, check out this website.

BEGINNER: My first recipe, is easy baked peaches. It’s perfect dinner party food. And as we come to the tail end of the season, the added elements means they don’t have to be the best ones, to be made into the best. It’s like an Italian, almondy, deconstructed crumble in a way. It’s certainly comfort food. So it’s perfect for these moodier days ahead.

I’d serve 1 whole peach per person for this, so plan accordingly. The amount of amaretti ‘stone’ is based on 4 peaches being used. I got my peaches from reg-the-veg in Clifton, and my amaretti from the Italian deli in Montpelier, but use your local delis and grocers, the chances are they’ll have what you need.

Ingredients:

4 x large peaches

60g crunchy Amaretti biscuits

25g demerara (or golden caster) sugar (or 2 dessertspoons)

25g butter (softened)

1 large egg yolk

Drizzle with a good dash of vin santo, or similar sweet dessert wine just before you bake them if you fancy it. Gives it an extra depth of flavour and sweet delciousness.

To serve:

1 pot Creme fraiche or really good/ homemade vanilla icecream

Step 1: Pre-heat the oven to 180°C

Step 2: Cut all peaches in half and remove their stones. Ripe peaches are better, and will make this process easier.

Step 3: Lay peaches flat side up on a baking tray

Step4: Prepare the ‘amaretti stones’ by smashing hard amaretti biscuits with an egg yolk, melted butter and sugar until you reach a good consistency and taste. The mixture should hold it’s shape and not be ‘wet’. Feel free to freestyle the quantities, I always do. Just taste for sweetness and consistency – you need that crunch.

Step 5: Spoon mixture into the peach, where the stone once was. It should be a little bigger than the stone was. If it was a small stone, feel free to scoop out more fruit to create a larger space for the mixture.

Step 6: Bake for 15-20mins until golden.

Serve hot, with creme fraiche. When I last served this, I had a selection of toppings to make it a little jazzier, including creme fraiche, homemade ice cream, homemade crunchie nuggets and extra fresh fruit. But the beauty of this dish is its ease and simplicity, so feel free to keep it stripped back.

You can sub in any stoned fruit, just keep the ratios of amaretti to fruit the same, and if it’s a smaller fruit, bake for a little less time. Plums may need a sprinkling of brown sugar to sweeten them up – have a little taste.

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Accompaniments, fresh berries, crushed (crunchy) amaretti, home made honeycomb and chocolate nuggets, creme fraiche, cream and home made vanilla ice cream (Just making sure everyone in the family has been catered for…)

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THE BAKED PEACHES. MMM, oozing with delicious, sweet, fruity and amaretto deliciousness.

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Mint, basil, peach, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, seasoning. BEST SALAD. Just gotta wait till next summer to enjoy this again now….

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I miss mid morning breakfasts, basking in the sun, eating crumpets, fried food, and fresh fruit salad – with the all important PEACH.