Manful braised celery

“Celery: visually suggestive but also regarded as a remedy for impotence, the Greeks held celery in such esteem that they awarded a stalk to the winners of their nude athletic events. The Romans also favoured the ability of this vegetable and dedicated celery to Pluto, the ‘god of sex’.”

Lana Citron, Edible Pleasures

I don’t have a lot to add to that quote, except to say that I’ve called this dish ‘manful’ because of the beef stock. That, and the onion, the Gruyère, and breadcrumbs are my reasoning (quite a lot of reasons) for the ‘onion soup aspirations’.

Serve with gammon and a middle-eastern saffron sauce. This way of cooking celery gives it a very strong flavour – too much for white fish or chicken. But you can always tone down the flavour by reducing the Herbes de Provence and the fennel seeds.

Manful braised celery with onion soup aspirations

Recipe for manful braised celery 

Serves 2

Ingredients

  • 1 onion
  • 1 head of celery
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • pinch Urfa pepper, or freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup hot water with a beef stock cube dissolved into it
  • 50g/½ cup grated gruyere
  • 80 ml/⅓ cup red vermouth
  • 30g/½ cup croutons or Panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 tbsps Herbes de Provence
  • 30g/⅓ cup chopped walnuts
  • butter for frying
  • yoghurt to add when serving

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180ºC.
  2. Melt some butter in a frying pan.
  3. Peel and chop the onion, add to the pan. Cook gently, while you….
  4. Carefully destring the celery, set the better looking leaves aside for garnish afterwards, and slice across. Add to the pan.
  5. Add the fennel seeds and the pepper… and perhaps a bit more butter if the pan looks a bit dry. Continue to fry until the onion begins to take on a bit of colour.
  6. Add the stock and the vermouth and simmer to reduce until the liquid is syrupy – about 20 minutes.
  7. Meanwhile in a small bowl mix the cheese, Panko breadcrumbs, the Herbes de Provence, and the walnuts.
  8. When the liquid has reduced, move the celery et al to a smallish, ovenproof dish into which it will fit snugly, but with enough surface for the breadcrumb or crouton topping.
  9. Bake for about ten minutes, but about seven minutes in, cover with the topping and dot with butter.
  10. Remove from the oven, dot with a bit more butter, scatter over some celery leaves, and serve with a dollop of yoghurt.
Manful braised celery with onion soup aspirations
Cut into short pencil lengths – add more butter if you need.
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