I have a bit of an unresolved relationship with celery. I like the concept, but I don’t go crazy when I see it. It is a fact though: celeriac, along with parsley root, carrot, parsnip etc. are the staples of the autumn- and winter-time cooking. This is an opinion changing dish, pushing the scales to much more affection towards this forgotten and maybe a bit neglected root.
I visited Karmelitermarkt the other Saturday. It was the first day of coldness hitting us after a long and very hot summer. I was picking up british sausages (check them out if you live in Vienna!) and as per usual with me, I got stuck just strolling around the vegetable stands. I was waiting in the queue to get wine when I spotted a monster celery (or celeriac, as proper English would require me to call this vegetable). They were piling up on a stand and being very full of themselves. Big, fat bulbs with bushy green parts. Very impressive and very aromatic. I remembered a recipe with slow roasted tomatoes from Golubka’s book and decided to just go for it.
Do not cook your celeriac!
When at home I got to the recipe I did not particularly like the fact that celery and chickpeas were cooked. I think root vegetables should be treated differently, especially when they are supposed to play the main part. You need to get as much taste out of them as possible, not make them bland by cooking in water. So I did what I like to do in the kitchen. I improvised. The result was so good I decided to share, not only keep it for myself. Don’t be afraid to add more spices. Also, don’t panic when celeriac sticks to the pan. Let it happen, just don’t let it burn. If you allow a bit of charring you will release much more flavours and the celeriac will offer you it’s best.
Celeriac stew with slow roasted tomatoes
- 500 grams cherry tomatoes
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1/2 tablespoon sugar
- salt, freshly ground black pepper
- one big celeriac, peeled and cut into cubes
- can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- one chilli (in my case 1/2 african worm and 1 thai chili)
- 2 onions, diced small
- 2 garlic cloves, chopped
- couple of sage leaves
- olive oil
- 1 teaspoon harissa
- 1 teaspoon mild paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
- 1 teaspoon thyme
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Preheat oven to 160 degrees.
- Oil the baking dish and place tomatoes in it.
- In a small bowl combine the olive oil, vinegar, sugar, salt, garlic and thyme. Pour the mixture over the tomatoes and spread it with a silicone brush or just toss the tomatoes gently around with your hands.
- Place the dish in the oven and bake for about one hour, until the tomatoes are soft. Remove from the oven and set aside.
- Put a splash of the olive oil in a dutch oven or cast iron pan, set on medium heat.
- Add 1/2 of the onion. When it sweats, add harissa, mild paprika, and smoked paprika. Fry for about half a minute till the spices get very aromatic.
- Add cubed celeriac. Salt generously. Toss it around with a wooden spoon to make sure the celeriac is covered with spices. Add the rest of the spices, mix. Cover and let on low-medium heat for about 20 minutes. Remember to mix it from time to time. Let the celeriac stick a bit to the pot. If it is really too dry and sticking too much try either lowering the temperature or adding a bit of water. But in general keeping it covered should create enough steam to keep the moisture in.
- Chop together garlic cloves, 3 tablespoons of olive oil, remaining half of the onion, and chilli. Ideally you want to have a pulp.
- When celeriac is soft, but not mushy, add chickpeas. Add the pulp you've just created. Mix well, cover, cook another 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Transfer celeriac chickpea stew on a plate, arrange tomatoes on top. Pour some of the tomatoes juices/sauce over the plate.
- Use salt & pepper according to your liking.