Food for thought – Celeriac

Granted, it’s not the prettiest ingredient we’ve ever featured, but celeriac is possibly one of the most underrated

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For those unfamiliar with celeriac, it is a

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type of celery, not cultivated for its stalks or leaves, but for its bulbous root. Its skin is knobbly in appearance, but on peeling away the brown, callous exterior, the inside reveals crisp ivory flesh.

And this flesh has even more compensatory attributes. Celeriac tastes similar to celery, as one might expect, but with more nutty, milder and sweeter flavours. It is delicious both raw – in salads or remoulades – or cooked in similar ways to other root vegetables – from mash to chips, puréed or roasted. This wonderful vegetable is so diverse that you’ll find it on two delectable dishes on the menu: it is the focal point of the goat’s butter-roasted celeriac with juniper purée, Huguenot cheese, cider-fermented apple and hazelnut milk and also beautifully complements the flavours in the slow-cooked beef tongue with celeriac purée and whole-grain mustard.

Celeriac is a particularly apt choice for this week, not only because it is seasonal in winter, but also for its connection to athletic games. Celery was for the Nemean Games what bay wreaths were to its Olympic counterpart. The winners of the various Nemean athletic events would be crowned with a wreath woven from wild celery leaves.

But those of us who aren’t active on an Olympic (or Nemean) scale should also be thankful for celeriac. Unlike most other root vegetables, celeriac contains only about 8% carbohydrates and is virtually fat free. It is also high in vitamin K and essential minerals.

So, unless you are a foodie of the most superficial sort, celeriac’s flavours, its versatility and its nutritional advantages certainly make up enough redeeming qualities to make it an ingredient of note.