Updated: Nov 10
Over the years I have managed to cut out most processed foods. I am down to boxed pasta, condiments, and, unfortunately, a daily boxed cereal habit. As I munched on my cornflakes this morning, I realized that there is much about breakfast cereal that still puzzles me. Where was the Honeycomb Hideout? How did General Mills get away with selling Lucky Charms cereal, which did not consist ENTIRELY of the little marshmallows, as advertised. How many of us had siblings who would sneak into the box and pick out all the lucky charms and leaving us with nothing but the gross tasteless cereal? And how is this not a metaphor for our America? I wonder also about the maritime career of Captain Crunch. Was he a navy captain, or was he in the merchant marine? How tight a ship did he run, anyway? Did he flog disobedient sailors? I pondered whether he officiated marriages of other cereal cartoon characters. He would have had to wait until 2015, since there have never been any female-identified cereal mascots. None! Even Quisp was non-binary avant la lettre. The lack of female representation in the cereal cartoon universe was a troubling thing for me to think about first thing in the morning, so my thoughts turned to root vegetables.
Celeriac is not the most attractive vegetable out there. It looks like a deep sea creature and its name sounds like a disease. As it turns out, it's just misunderstood. Mashed celery root is fine, it is not exactly something that makes you stand up and cheer. I recently discovered this heavenly recipe, and celeriac will now no doubt take up some of the baked potato slots in my regular rotation. The recipe was inspired by a cooking demo from Neil Campbell who is chef at one of Yotam Ottolenghi's restaurants in London. Neil resembles a stylish serial killer, as he wears a cool black leather apron that would be the envy of Sweeney Todd.
This dish is not in keeping with my general theme of easy weeknight meals, since it takes a couple of hours in oven. Since working from home I have been branching out and testing recipes that may take a long time to complete, but require minimal intervention. The combination of the celeriac with the fragrant spices and slow roasted garlic made this version of Neal's dish a total hit. And just look at this crust!
2 celeriac bulbs
5-6 garlic cloves
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
1 tablespoon flaky salt
sour cream or crème fraîche
chive if you have it
Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.
Top and tail each celeriac bulb (you want a flat top)
Rub each celeriac bulb with olive oil and cut a few slits into their sides. Pour a little more olive oil over the bulbs until they are sitting in a small pool of oil.
Toast fennel seeds and coriander seeds in a dry non stick skillet until the spices become fragrant.
Grind up seeds with salt to create the spiced salt.
Rub the salt on the sides of the bulbs and then sprinkle on the flat top of each bulb until there is a thick layer.
Put the celeriac in a skillet and put it in the oven.
When the celeriac develops some color, turn down the heat to 300 degrees.
Baste the celeriac with the olive oil and return to the oven
Continue basting the celeriac every half hour or so. Let the celeriac continue to cook for at least two hours (Neil roasts his for four hours!)
For the last 20 minutes, add garlic cloves into the skillet.
(When garlic is brown and soft, remove from pan, pull cloves out of their paper and set aside)
To serve, cut open celeriac, spoon cooking oil and garlic, then a dollop of crème fraîche, and sprinkle chives or a little fresh pepper on top.
This has been a successful baking week (unusual at my house). I tried Mandy Lee's foolproof apple pastry and, coming from someone who puts the "fool" in foolproof, it is indeed a no-fail recipe. You do need to follow her instructions carefully, but she is very clear and precise.