It's Whole 30, Day 19 and today's veggie is: Celery
So, I've already featured celeriac but the stalk that grows from that spherical root is so very distinct and unmissable that it deserved a blog all of its own. To me, celery is irreplaceable. Have you ever made a stew, for example, and either forgot or omitted the celery? It's just not the same! Leeks come close to filling the gap, celeriac comes a little closer, but there is just nothing else quite like celery.
Celery was always a Christmas staple when I was growing up. Forget the turkey and cranberry sauce, we had celery sauce, a delicious concoction of finely chopped celery, gently simmered in just a little salted water for an hour or so, then dosed with a good splosh of whole milk and my mother's favourite thickener, cornflour! I admired her ability to feature this veggie as a key part of the meal and not just as something that played a supporting role to more dominant flavours. Well, today's recipe plays to the same idea, and brings celery into its own. I, for one, think this humble stalk is more than deserving of this star treatment.
This recipe is the brainchild of the original kitchen diva, Delia Smith, and was featured on www.bbc.co.uk/food
Celery baked in vinaigrette with pancetta and shallots
Equipment: You will also need a double thickness of greaseproof paper, 38x60cm/15x24in in when folded and a large solid baking sheet.
1 head celery
6 shallots, peeled (and split if the bulbs are dividing)
1 or 2 thyme sprigs
1 rosemary sprig
4 sage leaves
3 slices pancetta or smoked steaky bacon
3 tbsp light olive oil
1 dessertspoon white wine vinegar
salt and freshly milled black pepper
Preheat the oven to 240C/475F/Gas 9.
Begin by removing the tough outer layers of the celery, then pare the outside of the root off, but leave it attached. Now cut across the celery about 9cm/3½in from the base. Stand the lower half upright and cut vertically through the centre. Then cut each half into 4 to make 8 pieces, keeping them attached to the root. Save a couple of nice leaves (preferably attached to a small stem) and trim the top pieces of celery to a similar length to the base, cutting off any really tough and stringy edges. Now wash all the pieces and dry them on kitchen paper.
Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a frying pan, then lightly brown the celery and shallots, keeping them on the move so they brown evenly. Now transfer them to a plate. Increase the heat under the pan, add the pancetta and fry the slices until they're really crisp - it will take 2-3 minutes and you'll need to keep turning them.
Lay the silicone paper over the baking tray and lightly grease a circle of 23cm/9in on it. Arrange the celery in an attractive shape on the paper, putting the prettiest pieces on the top, add the shallots, thyme, rosemary and sage leaves in among it, and season with salt and pepper.
Combine the remaining olive oil and wine vinegar, sprinkle that over the vegetables, followed by the pancetta crumbled into pieces with your hands. Next fold the silicone paper over and seal, making pleats, all round - you may find a couple of metal (not plastic) paper clips useful here, as it's essential to keep the steam trapped inside. Place the parcel in the pre-heated oven for 20-25 minutes.
After that carefully unwrap the paper - you may need scissors - and serve the vegetables with the juices spooned over.
Previous posts in this series:
Whole 30, Day 1: Leeks
Whole 30, Day 2: Peppers
Whole 30, Day 3: Celeriac
Whole 30, Day 4: Turnips
Whole 30, Day 5: Spinach
Whole 30, Day 6: Aubergine/Eggplant
Whole 30, Day 7: Broccoli
Whole 30, Day 8: Mushrooms
Whole 30, Day 9: Cabbage
Whole 30, Day 10: Carrots
Whole 30, Day 11: Fennel
Whole 30, Day 12: Sweet Potatoes
Whole 30, Day 13: Chicory
Whole 30, Day 14: Asparagus
Whole 30, Day 15: Cauliflower
Whole 30, Day 16: Courgette/Zucchini
Whole 30, Day 17: Kale
Whole 30, Day 18: Butternut Squash