Celeriac is a bit of a culinary ugly duckling: it really isn’t much to look at when it comes out of the ground, an unassuming off-white root veg, more knobbly than a turnip,with feathery hairs all over it. But, once peeled and prepared properly, it shows its true colours: big-flavoured, and tender when roasted whole, rich and smooth when mashed, or crisp and nutty when raw. It is probably my favourite vegetable.
Celeriac tastes similar to celery, but with a mellow, earthy depth to it, and a sweetness; where celery can be stringy and watery, celeriac is gnarly and creamy. Often you encounter celeriac in the form of mash, purée, or beige smear on the restaurant plate, but keeping it raw, in a celeriac remoulade, is how I like best to eat it. Celeriac remoulade, with its warming mustard, citrus zing and creamy mayonnaise base is a perfect winter salad. First the raw celeriac needs to be julienned or cut into matchstick pieces. This can take a little while, so measure out the lemon juice in advance, and toss the matchstick pieces of celeriac in the lemon juice as you go, to prevent them discolouring while you work. But once you’ve done that, the rest is a doddle: the celeriac is tossed with a mustardy, lemony mayonnaise that only needs to be stirred together, and then the whole thing can be served immediately. I like the mayonnaise enriched with just a touch of thick cream, and with two kinds of mustard so that the remoulade is punchy from the dijon, and dotted with little mustard seeds from the wholegrain, which pop in the mouth. The dish feels (and tastes) surprisingly chic for what is, in essence, a raw root veg covered in mayo.
Celeriac remoulade goes particularly well with a baked ham. Boil the ham joint, submerged in water, for three hours, before paring away the skin, then scoring the fat in a diamond pattern, and smearing that fat with dijon mustard and dark muscovado sugar. Place in a hot oven (around 220°C) for 15-20 minutes until the top of the ham is a dark bronze and bubbling. Serve the ham hot or cold, in thick, generous slices, alongside the celeriac remoulade.
Makes: Enough for four as a side
Takes: Ten minutes
Bakes: No time at all
1 small celeriac (about 650g)
2 tablespoons double cream
½ lemon, juiced
2 tablespoon wholegrain mustard
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
- Place the lemon juice in a mixing bowl. Peel the celeriac, and then slice into strips about the size of matchsticks. As you cut them, toss the celeriac matchsticks through the lemon juice to stop it discolouring as you work.
- Stir together the mayonnaise, double cream, and both mustards, and combine with the shredded celeriac and lemon juice. Season generously with salt and freshly ground black pepper, tasting as you go.
- You can serve this straight away, or leave the remoulade in the fridge for an hour or so, and the flavours will combine and improve.