Celeriac is making a kitchen comeback – I see it more and more in the grocers and markets and with mentionitus extending to recipes online – this season’s new black or in the cookery world the new Orzo. Suddenly everyone is playing around with this classic winter vegetable, it’s mild celery flavour perfect for mashing or slicing finely for a gratin. But for me, having spent so much time in France this last couple of years, Celeriac is all about salad. A winter salad. Perfect for lunch, an appetiser or a side dish whatever you plan to eat.
The Odd Ball of the vegetable world
Every time I read something about Celeriac I hear the word ugly. Harsh! Mind your manners too! I say change your tune food writers, I think it’s rather beautiful with it’s knobbly outer skin – twisting and turning every which way. Beautiful in my world. But maybe that’s because I have a different world view or maybe it’s just that I want to grow them.
I tried growing it a few years ago, but managed to choose a very dry year and if I’m honest I just sowed them and plonked them in, sat back and waited for nature to take it’s course. Nature did take it’s course, and produced diddly squat. Nada. Rien. So back to the drawing board I go; not only do I want to succeed in growing celeriac but I want to taste the difference of home grown – I’m sure it will be better, time and gardening will tell.
Having read up on the best techniques I realise that they are a little sensitive, preferring a slow gentle start to life on a warm windowsill, planted on and gradually hardened off in a greenhouse or cold frame. They are frost sensitive so will need fleecing or protection when first planted out in May or early June. The advice is to plant out in rich fertile soil about 10cm apart so that the emerging swollen part of the celeriac root sits just above the surface of the soil.. And then the important part – it will need watering – small amounts regularly are best not an infrequent drowning-drenching as is my usual slap-dash manner! I’m planning on mulching as much as possible as that is one of the best ways (for me) to keep moisture in the soil around the roots of a plant. The other thing I will need to remember is to protect them from slugs and pigeons – they have a penchant for tender greens too.
If you have ever grown celeriac I’d love to hear your do’s and don’ts!
In the meantime how about making some Céleri Rémoulade– I can pick it up pretty much anywhere in France, alongside the carottes râpée and betteraves râpées. And back home I miss these simple quick fix salads so its time to remedy that.
I’ve been searching for a proper Rémoulade recipe – I’ve seen many a version involving mayonnaise, crème fraiche and even sugar – yes someone out there thinks it’s a good idea to add sugar. Before I go off on a tangent about adding sugar to foods where frankly it has no need to be I’ll get on with my search for a Rémoulade. After all the looking on line, following links down dead alleys the answer was here in my kitchen – Elizabeth David’s French Provincial Cooking in her chapter on sauces. I should have looked there first!
Sauce Rémoulade –
“Pound the yolks of two hard boiled eggs to a paste with a drop of vinegar. Stir in a raw yolk, a teaspoon of French mustard, and a pinch of salt and black pepper. Add olive oil (about ¼ of a pint) as for mayonnaise. Flavour with a teaspoon each of chopped tarragon, chives and capers.”
Céleri Rémoulade aka Celeriac Salad –
Take a Celeriac root and chop about ¼ of it off and peel the skin off. Work quickly as the Celeriac will discolour. If in doubt squeeze some lemon juice over chopped pieces as you work. Finely slice the root into matchsticks or grate on a mandolin. Take a generous tablespoon of the rémoulade and coat the sticks well.