Good Food Blog
Corrupting a virtuous vegetablePosted at 12:45PM, 03 December 2008 by Toby Travis - Food blogger
Despite featuring as an object of carnal desire in the 80s sitcom 'Allo 'Allo, celery isn't usually thought of as a sexy vegetable. Eaten raw, its crispness and clean, slightly bitter taste is more suggestive of detox diets and moral fibre than of sinful indulgence.
Celery is in season through the summer months and into late autumn, although the heads which have been arriving in our veg box over the past weeks have often been small, dark green, and tough. Whether this is because they haven't been blanched sufficiently, or because end of season celery is often this way, I'm not sure.
They have been stridently bitter and so stringy that eating them raw feels like vigorously flossing your teeth with cheese wire
For whatever reason, they have been stridently bitter and so stringy that eating them raw feels like vigorously flossing your teeth with cheese wire. Attempts to de-string them have left precious little stalk left to go in the salad bowl.
This has left us no option but to break down their resistance through long, slow cooking. Richard Olney in Simple French Food suggests blanching the whole heads in boiling water for a few minutes before braising slowly for a couple of hours in meat stock.
We tried this recipe the other afternoon, pinching a couple of ladles of muttony stock from a neck of lamb stew which was lazily bubbling in the oven. Over the two hours the celery became soft, sweet and aromatic, losing its stringency and gaining a shiny gloss. It was delicious and made me wonder why we don't put more effort and imagination into cooking this neglected vegetable.
Jane Grigson gives another tempting recipe in English Food which involves boiling short stalks of celery until tender, then heating them very gently in a mixture of cream and egg yolks until the sauce has thickened slightly. This luxuriously old-fashioned approach sounds like a great way to rescue celery from the clutches of puritan dieticians.
Does anyone have any other ideas for how to corrupt this virtuous vegetable?