Never know what to do with the celeriac lurking in your veg box? Scott Paton, head chef at Àclèaf in Plymouth, reveals why it’s one of his hero ingredients and shares a few tips on how to source, prepare and serve it
The Marmite of winter vegetables, celeriac divides diners who either love or hate the gnarly root and its earthy notes. Home cooks are often apprehensive about cooking it as they’re not sure where to start, yet I often reach for it at this time of year as a flavoursome alternative to potatoes.
We source celeriac for Àclèaf from a local supplier who grows them on a small farm near Falmouth. They’re grown across the South West and are in season between September and April, so you should be able to find them at local farmers’ markets and farm shops such as Darts Farm and Lifton Farm Shop.
When selecting celeriac, you don’t want anything too big or too small – around the size of a side plate is best. If the roots are still attached, look for ones with green colouring at the base as this indicates freshness.
However hard you scrub, celeriac skin will always be slightly gritty so I’d recommend peeling. If you’re conscious about food waste, you can use the peel to make an earthy vegetable stock.
Celeriac makes a great alternative to potatoes (handy if you’re cutting carbs). Try mashing it or, for a superior Sunday lunch trimming, roast it in beef fat until caramelised on the outside and fudgy in the middle. I also like to use it as a sauce. I recently made a pork-cheek lasagne and, instead of making a bechamel sauce, topped it with a celeriac puree.
If you’re making celeriac mash or puree, you need to cook it quite quickly (on a rapid boil) to keep it fresh. Go too slowly and it will start to take on a stewed flavour.
At Àclèaf I’ve been working on celeriac “pastrami”: peeling it, brining it like you would a topside of beef, seasoning with pastrami spices, roasting for four hours until tender and then chilling and slicing very thinly.