Domini Kemp: Celebrating celeriac
In these dark, dull days of early new year, one way to comfort ourselves is by eating healthily
Domini Kemp’s Baked Celeriac Gratin with Walnut & Sage Cream. Picture Nick Bradshaw
January. Booo. I mean, who needs a Christmas grinch when we all know January is when our inner grinch (or grump) is in full swing!
January really is a mixed bag, though, isn’t it? It’s inevitably still pretty chilly outside, the month has nearly five weeks in it too, which really is far too long to wait til payday, given the expense of December.
On the plus side, of course, there is the shiny new year that’s in it – 2016 – a year chock-full of celebrations marking important events in the history of the State.
As well as looking back, the first month of any new year is always a time of looking forwards. And I would urge everyone to take that on in the most literal way. At least when it comes to food, I do away with all those notions of penitence and (often) unrealistic resolutions and focus instead on looking forward to making and eating food that tastes good and does you good.
As my good pal Susan Jane White would say, let’s take the hell out of healthy.
It is still wintry though and, for that, at least sometimes, we crave comforting dishes that warm our insides. So this week I came up with recipes that combine all the goodness and nourishment of vegetables and nuts, with the richness of a little cream and cheese and the rib-sticking promise they hold. And a I do mean a little: probably just over a tablespoon of cream and cheese per person.
This celeriac gratin is packed with nutrients. Kale gets great press, but fewer of us might be aware of the goodness of celeriac, the aromatic, gnarly, turnip-like root of the celery plant.
It would never win a prize for good looks, but celeriac has all the goodness of the above-ground parts, and in higher concentrations. This includes the chemical 3-n-butylphthalide (3nB for short), which has significant pain-killing qualities, especially for rheumatic and muscular pain.
So, celeriac makes up the main body of the gratin, but no self-respecting gratin can go without cream and cheese, so these babies make their way into the walnut and sage cream that makes this particular dish so lush. You need to plan a little bit ahead for this one as the walnuts need to be soaked overnight – or for at least 10 hours – until they soften up enough to be blitzed to a creamy texture.
Well worth the wait, I reckon.