Love your leftovers: Celery
As the cold chill leaves the air and the skies hold the promise of balmier days we tend to pack away the slow cooker and thoughts of comfort food and start craving healthier, lighter foods such as salads. When we fancy a salad for dinner we tend to grab every item in the salad aisle and many of these items can then sadly languish in our fridges is celery.
Celery is usually sold as a whole bulb and once you’ve taken away a stick or two for your impromptu salad, there’s a lot left to play with. Whilst delicious in salads or served with dips, once cooked, celery proves an invaluable ingredient. It’s a great base vegetable for lots of dishes – once sweated until soft, its peppery taste can add a real savoury depth and makes it a great ingredient for stock.
Buying and storing
Look for firm and tight celery with even stalks and leaves that look fresh. Make sure you wash it well and pat dry. Celery is really robust and often lasts for several weeks, although I recommend consuming it within two.
Celery and Fennel Salad
This is a great and tasty quick fix salad that is ready in minutes and will use up that left over celery that is loitering in your fridge.
1 large or 2 small fennel bulbs
3-4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 tbsp lemon juice
3 tsp fresh thyme leaves
Freshly ground black pepper and sea salt to taste
Very finely slice the fennel bulbs lengthways (a mandolin makes this easier, but watch your fingers!). Cut the celery stalks into thin matchsticks. Scatter the fennel and celery on a large plate or platter, drizzle over the extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice, then season with salt and pepper. Scatter any fennel fronds and celery leaves over if you have them and top with the thyme leaves.
Celery Gratin -A great Veggie Main or Side Dish
This dish is a creamy delight that really showcases celery!
2 celery heads, trimmed
1 red onion, thinly sliced
2 bay leaves
100g breadcrumbs (stale)
50g chopped walnut
75ml white wine
250ml vegetable or chicken stock
100ml double cream
25g grated Parmesan or vegetarian hard cheese
Cut any thick celery stalks in half, trim all of it into 1 inch lengths, then wash and drain. Melt half the butter in a large, heavy-based frying pan, and then add the celery, onion and bay leaves. Season well, cover, and then cook over a medium heat for approximately 30 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent the onions burning.
Meanwhile, prepare the breadcrumbs. Melt the remaining butter in a separate pan, then toss in the crumbs and walnuts, stirring often until lightly golden and toasted. Set aside.
Heat your grill to medium.
When the celery is tender, turn the heat right up, then pour in the wine and stock and cook until the liquid is reduced by two-thirds. Pour in the cream, then reduce for a final few minutes (over a moderate heat) until you have a syrupy sauce. Check the seasoning and adjust to taste before tipping into an ovenproof dish. Scatter with the breadcrumbs and Parmesan then grill for 2-3 minutes, until the sauce bubbles.