Monthly Archives: June 2011

Braised Celery & Potatoes

You guys, did you know that celery is, like, a real vegetable? That you can cook? As the main ingredient in a dish and not some tiny, background component? And it would be delicious? You did? Well, I didn’t until just now!

I still had a heap of veggie box celery left over after my Waldorf Salad efforts, and not having much of an idea what to do with it, I Googled “celery recipes” for inspiration. At the bottom of the page amongst the oh-so-helpful search suggestions was the phrase “braised celery recipes” and that was all I needed.  I may have even clicked on that phrase and flicked through a couple of the recipes, but I already knew what I was going to do.

The thing about braising celery is that it changes everything. There’s no bitterness, no stringiness, no aching jaw after all that crunchy.  Rather it melts into a tender, sweet-yet-deeply-savory deliciousness. I can’t quite explain it. You’ll just have to make it for yourself.

Braised Celery & Potatoes

Olive oil
1/2 bunch celery
4 medium potatoes (I like Dutch Cream)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup white wine
1-2 cups vegetable stock
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Handful of chopped parsley

Wash the celery and chop into 1-inch lengths.  Heat a slug of olive oil in a large pan and cook the celery over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, peel the potatoes and cut them into 1-inch chunks.  Add them to the pan along with a pinch of salt and cook a further 5 minutes.  Everything should colour up slightly.

Add the garlic and stir through, then pour in the wine and stir, scraping the bottom to get all the bits up.  Allow it to reduce a bit.  Add 1 cup of stock, cover and simmer, stirring occasionally.  Keep an eye on the liquid levels and add more if it’s getting dry before the potatoes are cooked.  The dish is done when the the potatoes are tender and almost all the liquid is gone, leaving a glossy coat all over everything.

Stir through the lemon juice and parsley.  Have a taste and season with salt and pepper.  Spoon out into big bowls, grab a fork, and get to know your celery in a whole new way.


Mushroom Bourguinon

One of the things I thought I’d really miss when I first went vegetarian was winter stews – slow-cooked, deeply flavoursome, alcohol-infused, meaty winter stews with thick, rich gravy.  It didn’t take me long to figure out some very satisfying vegetarian alternatives, but this mushroom bourguignon from Smitten Kitchen is one of the best by far.

As Deb says, “most of the things people thought they liked about meat they actually liked about the sauces and braises and spices they were cooked in” and I think this recipe proves that.  It’s rich, indulgent, warm, and comforting.  It’s everything you want it to be.  And it’s very easily veganisable – just replace the butter with olive oil and away you go.  Vegan French food win!

Deb serves her mushrooms over egg noodles, but I had mine with mashed potatoes and I’m calling it perfection. I did eat the leftovers with parpadelle the next day, and that was damn fine, too.  Just pick your favourite carb and get to it.

Mushroom bourguignon on mashed potatoes

Mushroom Bourguignon
Very slightly adapted from Smitten Kitchen 

4 tablespoons Olive oil or olive oil & butter
900g-1kg mushrooms (I used portabellos)
1/2 carrot, finely diced
1 small yellow onion, finely diced
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup red wine
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 cups vegetable stock
1 1/2 tablespoons plain flour
Parsley, chopped

Heat a good sploosh of olive oil, or a combination of olive oil and butter, in a large pan.  Cook the mushrooms on high until they colour, but don’t soften.  Remove from the pan and set aside.

Saute the onions, carrots and thyme over medium heat until the onions colour.  Season with salt and pepper.  Add the garlic and cook very briefly.

Pour in the wine and stir, scraping the stuck bits off the bottom.  Bring to the boil and allow the liquid to reduce by half.  Stir in the tomato paste and the stock.

Add the mushrooms and any liquid they released, and simmer for 15-20 minutes.

Mix the flour with 1 tblsp of butter or oil, then add to the stew.  Simmer over low heat for around 10 minutes, or until the sauce is a thick gravy.  Taste, season if necessary, and spoon over the carbohydrate of your choice.  Top with a good sprinkling of the chopped parsley, pour yourself a nice glass of red, and snuggle up near a heater while you eat.  You’ll wish winter would stay forever.

Waldorf Salad

Celery, you guize!


Look, it’s so green!  It’s also something I usually have no idea what to do with it when it arrives in my veggie box.

Probably because I used to hate it.

Celery was my most-despised vegetable growing up.  I thought it was bitter and stringy and I absolutely could not understand why anyone would insist on ruining perfectly good food with its presence.  My mother used to try to get me to eat it because of the allegedly magical weigh-loss effects it would have on my fat little body.  But even in those days of self-loathing, I couldn’t bring myself to eat it, no matter what the promised effects.

I grew up and my tastes changed (both in food and the best way to deal with living in a fat-hating culture).  I’d occasionally buy a stick of celery to put into pot of stock, or even a mirepoix. But it wasn’t until the last year or so that I’ve come to actually like the stuff (and even sometimes – shockingly! – crave it).  It’s so deeply associated with diet-culture in my mind, and it’s hard to enjoy any sort of food if you’re eating it as punishment.

Anyway, a lovely bright green half of celery turned up in my veggie box, and since my freezer is full of as much stock as it can hold, I needed to find another way to use it.  Also in my veggie box were some of the crispest, pinkest sweet-tart apples I’ve ever eaten.  The solution was obvious.

Waldorf Salad

I haven’t eaten a whole lot of Waldorf salads in my life (see above re childhood hatred of celery), and what few I have sampled tended to be drowned in overly sweet dressing.  Don’t do that.

This salad is crisp and crunchy. It makes a lot of noise in your mouth. It’s sweet and juicy and tangy and nutty.  It’s in-season. It’s refreshing.  It’s surprisingly satisfying. I want more.

Waldorf Salad
Serves 2

2 red apples (pink ladys are excellent)
3 stalks of celery
A couple of handfuls of walnut pieces
Half a bunch of parsley
Radicchio or other lettuce leaves (optional)

2-4 tblspns mayonaise (I used home-made aioli because I just happened to have some leftover, and the garlic was an excellent addition)
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp dijon mustard
salt & pepper

Combine all the  dressing ingredients in a jar, shake vigorously, taste, season and set aside.  You want the dressing to be tangy-but-creamy, thick-enough-to-coat-but-not-too-thick. You know, perfect.

Core the apples and chop into bite-sized pieces.
Finely slice the celery.
Chop the parsley.
Put them all into a bowl with the walnuts.
Pour over enough dressing to lightly coat everything without drowning it.

I hear the done thing is to serve this up on a bed of radicchio leaves, but I just ate it straight from the bowl. And it was delicious.

Warm Carrot & Bean Salad

This is a good salad.  A delicious salad.  A surprisingly hearty salad.  Well, maybe not that surprising, given the beans, but tasty and satisfying nonetheless.  It’s also a simple salad, easy to make and even easier to eat.  Try to leave some leftovers, though, because it’s pretty damn tasty the next day (though I’d recommend gently reheating in order to maximise the tastiness).

The recipe originally comes from 101 Cookbooks, and I made a few changes according to taste and what was in the pantry.  I added a lot more lemon juice because I love the zinginess.  I used two tins of beans, one large butter beans, the other borlotti because that’s what I had.  My carrots weren’t particularly young (but coming from my Greenline veggie box, they were characteristically sweet and delicious).  That is to say, it’s an adaptable salad as well.  Make it with whatever you have.  I promise it will be delicious.


Carrot & Bean Salad
from 101 Cookbooks

For the dressing:
1/4 cup olive oil
1 lemon, juiced
a good pinch of salt
3 shallots, thinly sliced

For the salad:
Olive oil
2-4 carrots, sliced
2 tins of white beans
1 bunch fresh dill, chopped
2 tblspns brown sugar
Sliced almonds (optional)

Mix together the dressing ingredients.  Taste, adjust seasoning if necessary, and set aside.

Put a largish pan over medium head. Add a good glug of olive oil, then add the carrots in a single layer.  Still occasionally until browned and softened.

Toss in the beans and the dill and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until everything is heated through.

Tip the mixture into a large, heat-proof bowl.  Sprinkle with the sugar and about 3/4 of the dressing, and mix gently.  Let it sit for 10minutes or so to absorb the dressing and allow the flavours to mingle.  Add the rest of the dressing if necessary (or keep it aside to liven up any leftovers).  Sprinkle with flaked almonds if you’re using them.

Grab your fork and eat!