INGREDIENT OF THE MONTH - Celariac
The adage that ‘beauty is only skin deep’ may have been created for celeriac.
Celeriac was commonly used by the Romans and ancient Greeks as a medicine and as food, and it was even mentioned in Homer’s Odyssey in 800BC. It was introduced into England in the mid-18th century from Egypt, where it was once a very popular vegetable. A traveller to Syria in the 16th century reported that celeriac was considered a delicacy.
It is also known as ‘celery root’, though this is a bit of a misnomer since, like the swede, we are actually eating the swollen stem-base. It is a slow-growing plant that matures in autumn and winter. Along with celery and celery leaf, celeriac is one of the three forms that the vegetable Apium gravelons takes.
Buying & storing
Look out for firm, heavy specimens. Although it presents a challenge to break into, it is well worth it. It’ll last for up to 3 weeks whole in the fridge, or 2 weeks peeled and cut up and stored in a plastic bag. Top and tail it with a knife, then peel with a potato peeler and place it in some acidulated water to prevent discolouration.
Its sweet and nutty, celery-ish flavour comes through when it’s raw and cooked. Try it raw, sliced into long ribbons and tossed in a creamy mustard dressing in the classic remoulade or cut into matchsticks and added to a raw vegetable coleslaw. Or treat like a potato or parsnip and cut into chunks and throw into meat or vegetable stews. It is also great mashed or roasted, especially when combined with other root veg.
WHAT'S GOOD AT THE MOMENT?
Autumn is definitely here, check out our in season guide to get some great ideas for delicious dinners
Although dried figs are available throughout the year, there’s nothing like the taste and texture of lusciously sweet fresh figs. Buy them only a day or two in advance of when you plan to eat them, and if you keep them in the fridge, cover them to make sure they don’t dry out. If they’re under-ripe, keep them on a plate, at room temperature, away from direct sunlight. Add figs to oatmeal or any other whole grain porridge; poach them in juice or red wine and serve with yogurt or ice cream; add quartered figs to a salad of fennel, rocket and shaved parmesan; or slice them and arrange them on a plate with torn mozzarella, goat’s cheese or prosciutto.
Plum season is in full bloom so get stuck into this quintessentially British juicy fruit. Plums are relatives of the peach, nectarine and almond – all considered “drupes”, fruits that have a hard stone pit surrounding their seeds. Dried plums are known as prunes. Good-quality plums will have a rich colour and may still have a slight whitish “bloom”, which indicates that they’ve not been over-handled. Delicious au naturel, plums can also be used in a variety of recipes and are great baked or poached. For a delightful dessert, poach plums in a red wine and top with lemon zest. Alternatively, stew them with a vanilla pod or two or a couple of spoonfuls of honey.