Wednesday, March 5, 2008
Celeriac and kohlrabi rösti
With spring around the corner, the last thing I should be thinking about is knobbly, hairy vegetables that grow under the ground.
There are true wild asparagus at the market, which I've tossed with cappellini pasta, lemon zest and juice, cream and parmesan, and stirred into just-laid eggs with cubed potatoes for a frittata to be eaten on the beach (it has been that warm).
Finger-thin carrots taste sweet and delicate, even if they are just a tiny bit knobbly and hairy; I bite into them just as they are or glaze them in butter and honey with whole cumin seeds.
How do you like these violet artichokes? Trimming them is a fastidious task but the result is always worth the effort, whether I slice them raw, cook them quickly in lemony water or stew them for an hour in white wine and olive oil.
On Sunday, at the Libération market north of the train station in Nice, I spotted the season's first fava beans (also known as broad beans). They cost €8 a kilo, but I didn't hesitate for a second. "Une caprice," said the farmer, smiling knowingly. There is no better snack in spring than emerald fava beans straight from the pod, each one peeled of its bitter skin if you have the patience.
But, just as it's not quite time to put away my winter coat, I can still get excited about the earthy taste of celery root (or celeriac) and the turnipy crunch of purple-skinned kohlrabi. I picked up one of each from an organic producer at the market last weekend, not quite knowing what I would do with them. As I was idly flipping through a folder of clipped recipes, I came across a brilliant idea from Clare Ferguson in an old (2005) issue of Homes and Gardens magazine.
Her recipe called only for celeriac, but as my root was small kohlrabi seemed the obvious addition. The use of chickpea flour made these rösti slightly reminiscent of socca, that Niçois classic (note: these rösti are gluten-free). I was also delighted that the recipe called for parsley stems, something I throw away unless I'm planning to make vegetable stock.
The tomato sauce with sweet chili that Ferguson suggests would have been perfect, but as a light lunch with salad and nothing else they were very good too: sweet, slightly nutty and fresh-tasting all at once.
I seem not to be the only one who has celeriac on the brain: I was surprised to see, as I blog-hopped after that lunch, that aforkfulofspaghetti also has a post on celeriac fritters this week. They involve whole slices of celeriac, but look equally delicious.
Celeriac and kohlrabi rösti
Serves 4-6 as a side dish, 2-3 as a light lunch with salad
1 small celeriac (about 325-350 g)
1/2 kohlrabi (about 100 g)
50 g chickpea flour
A handful of parsley, stems and leaves
2 tbsp cold water
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp cracked black peppercorns
Good quality olive oil, for frying
Scrub and peel the celeriac and peel the kohlrabi. Shred coarsely by hand or using the grating attachment of your food processor.
If using the food processor (I did), replace the shredding blade with the chopping blade.
Add the chickpea flour, thinly sliced parsley leaves and stems, beaten egg, water, and seasonings. Process, in brief bursts, until the contents are fairly evenly mixed. By hand, simply mix well.
Heat a good tablespoon of oil in a non-stick frying pan over medium-high heat. Drop tablespoons of this mixture into the hot oil and cook for 2-3 mins on each side, until browned and cooked through. Set aside in a warm oven until all the rösti are cooked (you may need to cook them in two batches).
Serve alongside meat or with a tomato-chili sauce as a snack or light lunch.