I made this on Saturday evening, to go with roast pheasant, and it was delicious. The inspiration was from an article in Saturday's Guardian by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, but I didn't follow his instructions, because his version uses cream. Mine, using low-fat creme fraiche, is a definite improvement (sorry Hugh!), not just because there are fewer calories and less fat, but also because creme fraiche gives the finished dish a sharp flavour - tastier than the bland sweetness of cream.
Peel and slice one medium-sized celeriac - mine was about four inches in diameter, weighed 450kg (sorry about the metric/imperial muddle here!), and had been sitting in the fridge for a couple of weeks. The thinner the slices, the quicker this will cook, so it's worth taking trouble. It's easier if you cut the celeriac in half, so that the slices are D-shaped. Arrange in overlapping slices in a greased gratin dish.
Chop finely two cloves of garlic, one red chilli (fresh or dried, whichever you have to hand), 3-4 anchovy fillets, and the leaves of a large sprig of rosemary. Mix all this with 300ml of low-fat creme fraiche, and pour over the celeriac. Drizzle with a little oil, and put in a hot oven, 190C, for about 45 minutes.
Ideally, you will have used anchovy fillets from a jar for the celeriac. I had to open a tin for this, so there were some left over. Not wanting to throw them away, or to have them making a greasy mess in the fridge, I used them to make a stuffing for mushrooms, which we ate for supper on Sunday evening. This is how I did it:
Finely chop one very small onion, and the stalks of four large mushrooms. Gently stew in a frying pan with 5-6 anchovy fillets and their oil (I'd use the whole tin if I was opening one). After a few minutes, add a little chopped garlic and cook for a minute. Add enough brown breadcrumbs to make a stiffish mixture. Mix in some chopped herbs - I think I used a little parsley, thyme, and some sage. Divide this mixture between the four mushrooms (which should be in an ovenproof dish or tin), pressing down well. Cover with a little white sauce, drizzle liberally with oil, and bake in a hot oven for half an hour, when the mushrooms should be cooked through and the stuffing heated through and brown on top. If not, put them back in the oven for a few more minutes.
This sounds a bit of a fiddle, and would be if you had to do it all at once. I always make "too much" white sauce, because it keeps well in the fridge, and is useful for this sort of dish, or to put on leftover vegetables. I also keep "fresh" brown breadcrumbs in the fridge, because they have myriad uses, because they keep well, and because I can't bear to throw away bread, particularly if I made it in the first place.
This may not be what you were expecting to see in a kitchen dedicated to lower-fat, low-cholesterol cooking. I have come to see that the main thing to avoid is processed food, and making these crisps confirmed that in an unexpected way. They were fun to make, but it was time-consuming (about half an hour). If you only ever ate crisps you had made yourself, you couldn't possibly eat more of them than was good for you. I think home-made crisps may be an occasional treat here from now on - I enjoyed making them, while I chatted to my 14-year-old son Alfred, who was fascinated by the process. It was the sort of undemanding cooking that makes you feel like a cordon bleu chef. And they had so much taste that there was no need for salt. They provided a very good "crunch" as a side dish with our pheasant.
You need one large parsnip, a potato peeler, some vegetable oil, and a small frying pan. Cut thin ribbons from the parsnip, and fry them for a minute or two on each side in half a centimetre of shimmering hot oil. It is important that you fry them in a single layer (this is why it is time-consuming), and that you heat the oil up again between batches. Drain them on kitchen paper, and, when they are cool, store them in an airtight box.
Quick roast parsnip soup
There was a little parsnip leftover, horribly mis-shaped. I cut it into very small pieces and put it in a hot oven for a few minutes. When it was cooked, I mixed in an equal quantity of "leftover" roasted onions and pureed it with a little stock (although water would have done just as well). Ten minutes from start to finish,with two one-minute bursts of activity). Just enough for Lucius, who came in late for lunch after playing a tennis match.
Purple sprouting broccoli
This weekend we ate the first purple sprouting broccoli of the season, plain, because it was such a treat. But next time I may well chop in a little fresh chilli, or a little chilli jam, or fry some breadcrumbs with garlic and anchovy to strew over them. I love the seasonality of purple sprouting, the king of winter vegetables, and I look forward to it in just the same way as I look forward to the first asparagus in May.
Tuesday, November 28, 2006