Celeriac is among the lesser known Turkish staple vegetables. They’re on the market every week, though in spring and summer, when outside of season, you may have to look a little extra to find it. But these days, there’s no need to look. Virtually every stall at my weekly market sells it.
In Turkey, they’ll sell you the entire plant: celeriac, celery stalks, leaves. This is how I learned that celeriac is actually a different variety than what gives us the crispy celery stalks. The stalks on a celeriac, while tasty, are small, limp and pretty sad looking. Even in their freshest possible state.
The Turks have several ways of preparing celeriac, and I’m sure I’ll return to some of them later. But although I’m using local ingredients and flavours, I’ve never seen anyone serve a whole roasted celeriac in Turkey. I’m of the view that all vegetables benefit from being roasted – and many of them even more so from being roasted whole. Celeriac is definitely among the latter.
This simple version is incredibly fresh and satisfying. Use a good-quality extra virgin olive oil for maximum flavour, and try to find a za’atar mix which hasn’t been diluted with flour or have added artificial flavouring (always check the label). The freshness of za’atar makes it perfect for sprinkling over at the last minute, whether we’re talking eggs, tomatoes, labneh or hummus. Or, indeed, celeriac.
I serve this as a side dish. Its delicate flavour makes it incredibly versatile – it’ll work with fish as well as it does meat or many vegetarian dishes. Think of it as a luxury version of the baked potato. And don’t get too hung up on the za’atar. If you don’t have it, top with another fresh or dried herb you like, or a pinch of chili flakes. You’ll need one celeriac per person, though if they’re very large you may get away with less.
- coarse salt
- 2 small celeriacs, cleaned and dried
- extra virgin olive oil
- flaky salt for sprinkling, such as Maldon
- Preheat the oven to 180 C (355 F).
- Place the celeriacs on plenty of coarse salt in a roasting pan. Roast until completely soft all the way through, 1 ½ to 2 hours or longer, if your celeriacs are very large.
- Slice off the top and serve with extra virgin olive oil, za’atar and salt. Leave the garnishes on the table so everyone can add more as they eat their way through their celeriacs.