Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Celeriac Gratin

If you're not a fan of celery and therefore think that you don't like celeriac, then I urge you to give me a moment of your time.  I'd like to share with you something to help you change your mind.  I'm no evangelist when it comes to food but I do find point blank "I don't like that" attitudes frustrating.  To my mind there has to be a way of preparing everything that is edible in such a way that even its harshest critics will enjoy.

I have a couple of vegetables that fall into this category, aubergine and okra.  I have eaten both enough times to know that I don't enjoy eating either, that said I keep trying these things and have found ways to make both wonderful.  In Malaga I had wonderful aubergine chips coated in polenta and I have eaten one or two really good Bhindi Bhajis (with okra) so I know its possible to make them*.

Celery, I know, is another one of the vegetables that really divides opinion.  My dad loved it.  My mum would just about put up with it if it was added to stews so early that it was unidentifiable at the time of eating.  I have even heard people describe it as the devil's vegetable, high praise indeed if Old Nick has the best music.

Our celeriac comes courtesy of Leeds' Briggate Farmers Market last weekend.  Among the artisan bread and designer pickles there were at least two or three farmers peddling their wares.  One was even proudly selling mucky carrots**.  The celeriac were priced individually, not by weight, and I couldn't stop myself buying the biggest one on offer.  Thinking ahead I knew that I'd use half of it for soup and the other half, celeriac gratin.

Layers of thinly sliced celeriac, fried onions, cream and strong cheese are baked together until the top is crisp and the middle is gooey.  The result has the comforting texture of potato dauphinoise but with the added freshness of celery.  We served ours with pork rib chops, but that's entirely optional.

*of course these are the exceptions, given the choice I'll pick something else from any given menu.
**I've had my fill of carrots of late.

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