Celeriac

Yummy yummy in my tummy. Celeriac is one of my favourite vegetables. Last year we fell into Josef’s vegetarian joint in Bury St Edmunds. Sadly, when I Googled it just now, it looks like it’s closed which is a shame because it was there that I experienced a celeriac burger. It was a revelation and I have been trying to replicate it ever since. Think I’m there now. And Joseph – wherever you are, hope life is good for you and that you are happier than your Google post implied.

Using a sharp knife, peel the knobbly bits and the skin off the celeriac, then slice it into 2cm rounds. This is your burger so treat it carefully. Pour some vegetable stock into a wide shallow pan. (If you are really keen you can make your own from the washed celeriac peelings, a sliced onion and the skin, a clove of garlic, a carrot, a bayleaf, some thyme and some of the the washed celeriac tops. Boil these in about 750ml water and add salt at the end of the process, not at the beginning).

Place your celeriac rounds into gently simmering stock and cook till the middle bit is only just tender. Don’t overcook. Then take out and drain on kitchen paper. Meanwhile make some fine wholemeal breadcrumbs in the food processor – maybe 25% of a loaf. Add a little salt and a grind of black pepper and half a flat teaspoon of cayenne pepper. Put these on a flat plate. Beat two eggs in a bowl. Now comes the messy bit. Line up the following – right to left. Drained celeriac. Beaten egg. Breadcrumbs. Clean plate covered in lightly oiled clingfilm. Take a burger and drop into the beaten egg and make sure it is coated all over. Then lift it into the breadcrumbs and press them into the soggy egg covered celeriac. Then move onto the plate. When you’ve done this to your celeriac rounds place the plate in the fridge. This will firm it all up. The trick to achieve is 1) don’t overcook the celeriac. 2) leave them to rest in the fridge before you cook them.
You could freeze it at this stage if you wanted to.

Now, add enough golden rapeseed oil to a frying pan so that when you add two or three burgers there is plenty of room around them and the oil comes half way up the burger. You need the oil to be hot but not smoking. But equally if the oil temperature is too low, too much will soak in. The key to frying is achieving the correct temperature. The best way to test is 1) brink it up to smoking point then take off the heat and leave it for 3 minutes before returning the pan to the ring on a lower heat and/or 2) throwing in a small piece of bread which should immediately bob up to the surface and begin to sizzle. Frying food is not bad for you – if you get the oil temperature correct then the food cooks quickly and the outside is crispy. The worst thing is frying in oil where the temperature is too low – then the oil is absorbed by the food and is greasy and won’t crisp. So fry your burgers – about 3 minutes each side – then drain and place in a bun full of salad and onion and with whatever relish you like. Sometimes I add a sprinkle of gremolata on the burger (picture above). Finely chop flatleaf parsley, garlic and lemon zest – I put this in a jamjar and it keeps fresh for about a week.

More ideas for celeriac…………..
Grate it, then add a thick vinaigrette dressing made with wholegrain mustard (one crushed garlic clove, twist of salt and pepper, half a squeezed lemon, 5ml runny honey, 10ml (two teaspoons) wholegrain mustard, 50ml good oil).
Or mash it. Peel and chop into chunks then boil it and drain it. Put back in the pan with a good knob of butter and white pepper, 15ml cream or yogurt then mash. Sometimes I add grated parmesan.
Gratin it. Slice thinly and blanch slices for two minutes then drain. Put in a dish, alternating layers of thinly sliced onion and garlic and celeriac. Pour single cream or full cream milk over and add a dusting of parmesan. Bake in the oven for about 1.5 hours.
Make soup with it. Combine with equal amounts of celeriac, chopped carrot and onion. Saute gently with the lid on then add 750ml or so of stock and simmer gently. Whiz with a stick blender until about 50% is blended (or 100% if you prefer a smooth soup).

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