salt crust baked celeriac
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Celeriac in armour; whole celeriac baked in salty, crusty dough flavoured with rosemary. The unassuming vegetable gets a Michelin star makeover by chefs from James Martin to Tom Kerridge.
The very first thing I’d eaten that had been baked in a salt crust must have been potatoes. Coated in salt and flour mix and baked in a hot oven, I had them probably at a friend’s house served with a bit of cottage or goat’s cheese on the side. Having been brought up on plain boiled potatoes, I thought that was an epic culinary innovation. Perhaps not quite, but it is a good simple peasant dish in the best sense of the name and unrelated to the cook’s background.
Then came fish; a whole sea bass or sea bream baked in a mountain of salt, cracked open and filleted for me at a lightning speed and with a blinding skill in a Venice restaurant. I have since made my own version and the salt truly does magic: the fish has the loveliest, succulent texture and the fragrance of spiced and zested salt baking could sell your house in a jiffy.
I first had salt baked celeriac in Skosh, a brilliant York restaurant. It was then one of their signature plates and however much I like celeriac, I didn’t expect fireworks. There weren’t; but it was an intriguing dish. So off I went to try my own.
Skosh celeriac was presented de-crusted, in chunks, and garnished with spicy seeds if I remember correctly. So I had no idea how stunning it is when it emerges from the oven in the salt shell. You crack and slice the top like off an enormous soft boiled egg into which a knob of butter goes to lusciously melt. It is the most impressive sharing vegetarian centrepiece and fun to eat. It tastes pleasantly earthy, a little sweet and it’s meltingly soft.
Can you eat the crust? You can, by a small crumb, for a uniquely mouth-puckering high salt experience. It retains the flavour of whatever herbs or spices you mixed into the dough; more so than permeates into the celeriac, naturally, through the gnarly skin.
And it doesn’t let you down the next day: you can peel and cube the leftover celeriac and eat it cold with mayo, add it to a salad or gently sear in the pan with a little butter to heat it up.
salt crust baked celeriacServings: 6Time: 2 hours 30 minutes
- 1 large celeriac, about 1 kilo
- For the salt crust:
- 200g salt
- 300g plain flour
- 2 tbsp. finely chopped rosemary
- 2 tbsp. vegetable oil
- 150 ml warm water
- butter, to serve (olive oil for vegan version)
1. Wash and scrub the celeriac but do not peel it. Trim the gnarly end so the celeriac can sit on it.
2. To make the crust, mix the salt and flour together in a bowl, add the rosemary and oil and stir in the water. Knead by hand or in a standing mixer for a couple of minutes to obtain smooth dough. Let it rest for 15 minutes. Preheat the oven to 160C (fan if available)/325F/gas 3.
3. Dust the worktop lightly with flour. Roll the dough out to a large disc about 30cm in diameter. Place the celeriac in the centre and wrap the dough around it, squeezing out trapped air, to completely encase it. Seal any cracks with wet fingers.
4. Place the celeriac on a baking tray, on a piece of parchment. Bake for 2 hours.
5. With a sharp knife slice off the top of the crust and the celeriac. Add a knob of butter and fluff up the celeriac flesh with a spoon. Serve as a centrepiece, for everyone to scoop out the flesh with spoons. Any left over can be peeled and served cold with spiced mayo.