Mark Hix on why ‘knob celery’ is the most underrated root in the supermarket

 
Mark Hix

When I first moved to London, certain unusual fruits and vegetables were referred to as “queer gear”. I suppose celeriac – or celery root, as it’s sometimes referred to by those who can’t pronounce it – falls into this category. (It also goes by the name “knob celery”, although this isn’t widely used for obvious reasons).

Like a lot of ugly vegetables it often sits on the supermarket or green grocers shelves, with nobody quite sure what to do with it. I got my last head of knob celery from Lidl, which incidentally also does the best bin liners. (Seriously, they don’t break when you try to take them out of the bin or split halfway to the rubbish store – they’re proper strong bin liners and good value, I’ll be stocking up again this weekend).

Anyway back to celeriac or whatever you want to call it. It’s so versatile you can do almost anything with it, from simply roasting to shredding raw into a classic celeriac remoulade. Here’s one fabulously simple solution.

Salt-baked celeriac (serves 2-4)

This is a great sharing dish or a main if you have vegetarian guests. Cooking it in salt, rather like a salt baked sea bass, really helps it retain and enhance the flavours.

Ingredients

• 1 celeriac weighing about 600-700g

• A couple of good knobs of butter

• Salt and freshly ground black pepper

• 200g or so of salt for baking

Method

• Pre-heat the oven to 200C/gas mark 6.

• Place the salt in a tight-fitting oven-proof dish or pan and put the celeriac on top. Bake for about an hour, turning the celeriac a few times while it’s cooking, or until it feels tender when a knife is inserted.

• To serve, cut off the top and either mash the middle with butter and seasoning or just make random cuts through the flesh and just add the butter and seasoning.

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