CRAIG'S INGREDIENTS: CELERIAC

Every season, Craig shares one of his favourite ingredients. This season, it's celeriac.

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It’s rather ugly, craggy appearance might put you off  - and I agree, it does look a bit intimidating - but the celeriac is a very versatile ingredient and I love it. In France you see it in markets everywhere at this time of year - they really celebrate the celeriac and cook it several different ways.

In fact, I was introduced to celeriac by two French chefs I worked with in Edinburgh over 20 years ago. Celeriac was a bit of a novelty as you couldn’t buy them easily here in those days. I was really eager to learn about this new ingredient from these chefs. Both had come from Michelin 3-star restaurants in France to their first jobs in the UK and I was their commis. I was really thrown in at the deep end as they didn’t speak English, but I learned so much about the French way of cooking and how they design their menus around the changing seasons. 

One of the dishes I discovered then, and is still one of my favourites to this day, is the celeriac remoulade. It’s a lot like a coleslaw, but with a more sophisticated flavour. Finely shredded raw celeriac is mixed with Dijon and Pommery mustard, mayonnaise, lemon juice and parsley. It’s great as a cold starter served with cured meats or salmon, and will keep in the fridge for a few days.

It also makes a luxuriously silky winter soup. Dice the celeriac and cook with a little water until soft. Then blitz with a pinch of saffron a splash of double cream and a couple of big spoonfuls of mascarpone and top with some chopped chives. If you’re feeling very decadent, add some shaved truffle or a little truffle oil. Not too much as it’s already a very rich soup.

A celeriac gratin makes for a deliciously interesting side dish for a family meal or Sunday roast. Slice on a mandolin then layer with cream, garlic and nutmeg, topped with Gruyère cheese and bake in the oven. Just like making a potato Dauphinoise.

Look out for celeriac in the supermarket, where they’re mostly imported from Europe. We do grow them in Scotland but they’re a bit trickier to find. Try the Edinburgh Farmers’ Market, or farms like East Coast Organics, Pillars of Hercules and Cyrenians. Most organic farms will grow some.

Embrace the change in the season and give it a bash. So much of cooking is about trial and error – so don’t be afraid. For me, I love celeriac’s versatility. It’s full of flavour, brilliant to eat and packed full of vitamins and nutrients.