Celeriac with lentils with hazelnut and mint.
Yotam Ottolenghi’s cookbook, “Plenty” makes you confident that vegetarian cooking can be exactly that – plenty. While the chef and author is not a vegetarian himself, he was the Guardian Weekend‘s vegetarian columnist for years.
His colourful cookbook is full of recipes for beautiful and delicious fare. He categorizes the book by ingredient – dedicating whole chapters to things like the Mighty Eggplant and Funny Onions.
This recipe for celeriac with lentils with hazelnut and mint, is in the Grains chapter, is absolutely wonderful.
Ottolenghi writes that celeriac (also know as celery root) is his favourite root vegetable: “It is delicate, yet very nutty, and has an elegant oily smoothness.” If you closed your eyes after chopping it open you would smell celery – but the texture is different – much like a root vegetable, it is starchy and becomes tender when cooked or roasted.
Shown here it is cut in half and its ends have been trimmed. It is sometimes sold with all of its knobbly bits intact (the root “arms” and the other end where the celery grows up above ground).
C. taught me how to skin it by working around the edges with a sharp knife.
It has the same texture of a sweet potato and slices nicely.
To be honest, I hadn’t given celeriac much thought until C. showed me the recipe. We were on the search for something vegetable-based to bring to brunch. This fit the bill perfectly.
Celeriac with lentils with hazelnut and mint
Note: While the recipe calls for Puy lentils exclusively, C. and I used a mix of regular ol’ green and orange because that’s what I had on hand. The original dressing for the recipe also calls for hazelnut oil which I didn’t have any of – so I just used good quality olive oil the whole way. If you have some of this delicate (expensive) oil on hand, feel free to substitute half of the oil for it. We also added some crumbled feta to the salad to bulk it up. Goat cheese would be nice too. Or you could leave it out.
1/3 cup whole hazelnuts (skin on)
1 cup Puy lentils (also called French lentils and usually an army green colour)
3 cups water
2 bay leaves
1 small celeriac (1 1/2 lbs), peeled and cut into 3/8 inch matchsticks
7 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp good-quality red wine vinegar
salt and black pepper
4 tbsp chopped fresh mint
1. Preheat the oven to 275°F. Scatter the hazelnuts on a small baking sheet and roast in the oven for 15 minutes. Let them cool down, then chop roughly.
2. Pick through the lentils, making sure there are no unwanted stones or debris amongst them.
3. Throw them in a medium-sized pot with cold water (about double the height of the lentils), and bring the water to the boil.
4. Strain the lentils. Return back to the pot with cold water again (same height), add bay leaves, and bring to the boil again. Simmer, uncovered, for 15 – 20 minutes, or until the lentils are al dente.
5. Meanwhile… in another medium-sized pot, bring water to a boil. Add two tablespoons of salt to season the water, and add celeriac. Boil about 10 minutes, until the celeriac is tender.
6. If you are serving right away – work quickly (as the lentils won’t soak up the flavour if they have cooled down), combine the lentils with the olive oil, vinegar, black pepper and what he calls “plenty of salt”. We used probably two healthy fingers of salt. Add the celeriac and stir well. Taste and adjust the seasoning accordingly.
7. Stir in half the mint and half the hazelnuts. Pile onto a serving dish or bowl and drizzle the remaining nuts on top. Garnish with the rest of the mint.
8. If you are preparing before hand and serving it later and cold, wait for the lentils and celeriac to cool down before adjusting the seasoning and adding a bit more vinegar if necessary. Add half the mint and nuts, plate, then finish off with the remainder mint and nuts to garnish.