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, at least at the markets, they’ll sell you the entire plant: celeriac, celery stalks, leaves. I suspect it’s mostly to do with marketing and pricing. Turks rarely utilise the stalks, meaning only about 1/3 of the purchased weight is actually eaten, making it 5-6x as expensive as, say, carrot or potato, for which there is virtually no waste. But since the whole affair is sold as one piece, the headline price per kilo appears more managable, roughly in line with other vegetables slightly more expensive than said carrot or potato. Not unimportant in a country with a minimum wage of just over 400 euros a month.
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.
Whole roasted celeriac with olive oil & za’atar
- coarse salt
- 2 celeriacs, cleaned and dried
- extra virgin olive oil
- flaky salt for sprinkling, such as Maldon
Preheat the oven to 180 C.
- Place the celeriacs on plenty of coarse salt in a roasting pan. Roast until completely soft all the way through, 1.5 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.
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