Celeriac salad is one of my favourite ingredients of a crudites starter in a French restaurant. Often accompanied by grated carrots, diced beetroot, finely sliced cucumber salad, radishes and, really, any vegetable in season that’s nice eaten raw, there are few things that beat it as a fresh and delectable way to begin a meal. Linda made celeriac salad for lunch one day last week while I was with her and George in Spain, and I thought, I must make this when I get home. So, here it is!
With the weather fast getting colder – despite sun today – this nutty, earthy and slightly creamy vegetable is perfect for the autumn. Despite its rather bland and unattractive appearance, celeriac is packed full of good things and an excellent source of calcium, magnesium and Vitamin C. It’s such a simple salad that one feels it should be put together without the aid of a cookbook. Thin strips of fresh celeriac folded with a mustardy mayonnaise. But, as I always do when cooking something for the blog, I feel I should search my cookbook shelves and see what others come up with. After a quick look in a ‘Jamie’ and Elizabeth David, I settled on French Cookery by Helge Rubinstein, one of the first books I commissioned for a cookery series back in the late 1970s. It was published in 1979 and has remained a standard with me for anything classically French: simple recipes that always work well.
I bought a nice organic celeriac yesterday (500g) so with that and some olive oil, mustard and a lemon, I was set to go.
Celeriacs, like pumpkins, are not the easiest things to peel but the best thing to do is stand it on a chopping board and slice downwards with a sharp knife to take off the tough and knobbly outside. Then grate it finely.
Transfer to a bowl and sprinkle with the juice of half a lemon and a level teaspoon of salt. Mix thoroughly and leave to marinate while you make the mustard dressing.
Put 2 tablespoon of Dijon mustard in a bowl (it’s important to use French and not English mustard!) and whisk in 1 tablespoon boiling water to loosen it up. Then beat in 2 tablespoon olive oil slowly, as if making mayonnaise.When it’s nice and creamy beat in 1 teaspoon of wine or cider vinegar. At this point I tasted and strayed from the recipe. It was nice but very mustardy and I decided to soften it by adding a heaped dessertspoon of mayonnaise. This is a very usual addition in most other recipes, so perfectly acceptable.
Check seasoning. You probably won’t need more salt but add some freshly ground black pepper. Then pour the dressing over the grated celeriac and mix thoroughly. Transfer to a serving dish and either serve immediately or put in the fridge till you want it.
Serve the celeriac salad as part of a crudites starter or light lunch, or with just some good crunchy French bread and maybe some cheese. The flavour is deep and earthy, capturing all the smells and richness of autumn and the salad is such a fabulous classic that you’ll want to keep coming back for more and more.