Nigella’s Christmas Feast – Celeriac and Anchovy Grit

Celeryc is my favourite vegetable. The rich umami from anchovies and their intense rasp, matched by the blanketing sauce, makes it a perfect match. This is something I make ahead and keep in the fridge for at least a couple of hours before it goes into my oven. You can keep it covered in the refrigerator for as long as two days. However, you must let it reach room temperature before baking it. You can also keep some celeriac cooking water in the fridge for any additional needs.

SERVES 4 – 6

1.5 Liters of cold water plus additional as required

2 Tbsp Lemon Juice

2 tablespoons of sea salt flakes (1 tsp fine salt)

1kg celeriac

4 garlic cloves

For greasing dishes, 15g butter plus additional

300ml double cream

8 anchovy fillets

Good grinding pepper

  • Place the water in a large saucepan that can hold all of the celeriac. It doesn’t have to be huge; I fit mine into a pan that’s 22cm in diameter and 9cm deep. Salt the water and add the lemon juice. Cut the celeriac in quarters and then peel. Cut the celeriac very thinly using a mandoline (or a processor) or with a knife. If you use the slicing wheel in the processor to make each half, it will be necessary to do so. Add to the lemony water in the saucepan, topping up with a little fresh water if the celeriac isn’t just about covered.
  • The cloves of garlic should be peeled and added to the saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil on high heat. I put a lid on to make it faster, but keep an ear open so that you don’t miss when it starts boiling. Cook on a rollicking boil, partially covered, for about 5 minutes until the pieces of celeriac are tender, but not so soft that they’re cooked through.
  • Use a large strainer to remove the celeriac from a bowl or batter container. If you know you won’t, then lower in a ladle or measuring jug to remove some of the celeriac-cooking water – get about 250ml or a cup, just in case – to add to the anchovy cream later, and just drain the celeriac in a colander in the sink, though it pains me to write those words.
  • After the celeriac cools down, cut off 75g. (I prefer to use the pieces and chips, as they are easier for me to layer in my dish) Then, put the celery in a bowl that you can blend with a stick blender. Add the cloves of garlic to your bowl.
  • Butter the dish you choose (the one that I used has an internal measurement of 26cmx18cmx5.5cm), and then fill it with the celeriac pieces.
  • Mix the cream, anchovy and garlic into a bowl with celeriac offcuts, and 100ml celeriac cooking water. Give it a good grinding with pepper, and then blitz the mixture with a stick blender. Resist the temptation to knock this back in one – or is it only me? – and pour over the celeriac in its dish (adding more of the reserved water should the cream not just cover) and leave for a couple of hours – or up to two days in the fridge – or blithely proceed straightaway.
  • Turn the oven on to 190C/ 170C fan/gas 5. Sprinkle the 15g butter over the cream-covered celeriac. Continue cooking for 50 minutes to one hour, or until the celeriac is hot and golden brown.