Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The ugly the tastier

They all belong to the same family but do not share the same looks, Parsnips, carrots, celery and celeriac.  Even though celery has a long history and was prized by the ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans the same cannot be said about children valuing it in the 21 st century

The ugliness of the celeriac should however be something that we celebrate,  for hiding under its tough and rough brown dry skin is a white flavoursome and creamy flesh.  Celeriac Remoulade (grated raw and mixed with mustard mayonnaise) is the most famous of all dishes in France and is a every day  food eaten at the dinner table (think of the kiwi version of coleslaw!)  Celeriac is pungent and crunch when raw and creamy and soft when baked or mashed or can be baked just as parsnips and potatoes are. The uglier the celeriac the better it tastes !
Ugliness is the real test for how good something will taste, the uglier the better and the more flavoursome is my general rule of thumb.   There is something about ugly food that just seems to make it taste better than everything else, take heirloom tomatoes, paua, nips and tats,  forked carrots, wild rocket and bitter lettuces, Jerusalem artichokes and many other vegetables and foods for example.   Over the past  two decades, strict E.U. regulations had dictated the shape, size and appearance of 36 fruits and vegetables sold in supermarkets, with strangely precise bans on such items as:
• Cucumbers that bend by a curve of more than 10 mm per 10 cm
• Forked carrots

For those who truly understand food, this ban was seen as wasteful because up to 20% of perfectly tasty produce simply does not meet this grade,  because it wasn't up to snuff visually. Fruits and vegetables can be ugly on the outside but still taste fine on the inside, where it counts, Heirloom tomatoes may look like Frankenstein, but they often taste better than the perfectly round, plasticized tomatoes you see in supermarkets. An irregular shape usually has nothing to do with taste. Next time you looking for inspiration, don’t look past the ugly food, you may just try something that you end up really liking

Celeriac Remoulade
1 Celeriac
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 lemon
½ cup of mayonnaise (homemade or use mayonnaise that does not contain any sickly sugar)
1 tsp dijon mustard
1 tbsp chives, finely chopped

Peel the celeriac with a large knife,  slice off either end and cut in half lengthways. Lie each half on a chopping board and slice into thin slices. Lie 4 slices on top of each other at a time and cut into thin matchsticks (this is called julliene). Even easier is to use a good quality grater and to grate thickly.  Place the celeriac in a bowl and sprinkle the slices with sea salt and squeeze lemon juice over them. Stir in the mayonnaise and the mustard and check the seasoning.  Serve with smoked fish, wild game, ham, walnuts or antipasto style items.  

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