In celebration of celery

August 25, 2009

celeryIf there’s one vegetable always found in my crisper, it’s the humble bunch of celery – it goes in everything from soups to curries to pasta to tagines to all those good Mediterranean casserolish things, and even when past its prime it still keeps that fresh flavour note. But until now, the ol’ soffrito has been pretty much been the limit of my use of celery – chopped and sauteed along with the onion, carrot, garlic, etc. I’ve always hated the whole raw celery stick thing  (same with raw carrot sticks – ugh), and lumps of raw celery in salads somehow speak to me of lack of imagination. As for that childhood Healthy Eating craze for celery sticks with peanut butter – eew.

However, when I got home from woodwork school the other week, Senor had made the most surprising and delicious Marcella Hazan dish – braised, gratineed celery. It was incredible: blanched, then braised in beef stock, sauteed with pancetta, onion & garlic, and then baked with parmesan over the top. Even after all that dousing it holds such a zingy, fresh flavour, but the texture is beautifully soft while still retaining the tiniest bit of crunch.

I made it again last night, and it will now go on my list of vegetable winners. I think you should try it too. My next experiment with celery will be Marcella’s braised celery and potato with lemon juice. Sounds equally good. This recipe is from The Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking that I so selflessly gave Senor for his birthday …

Marcella Hazan’s Braised & Gratineed Celery Sticks with Parmesan

Serves 6

  • 2 large bunches celery
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped onion
  • 25g butter (I skipped this & used olive oil only)
  • 4 tablespoons chopped pancetta or prosciutto (I used speck)
  • 500ml diluted beef consomme (I used a small diluted amount of the very fancy Simon Johnson veal stock I was given for my birthday – thanks Ricardo!)
  • Parmesan
  1. Cut off celery’s leafy tops and save the hearts for salad. Peel the strings off the celery and cut into 7cm lengths.
  2. Bring water to the boil, drop in the celery and 1 minute after water returns to the boil, drain and remove.
  3. Saute onion until translucent, then add pancetta/proscuitto and cook for 1 minute.
  4. Add celery, stir to coat well and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  5. Add the broth/stock/consomme, adjust heat to very gentle simmer and cover the pan. Cook until celery feels tender when prodded, then remove lid and raise heat to boil away all liquid.
  6. Arrange the celery in a heatproof baking dish with the concave side of the sticks facing up. Spoon onion & pancetta mix over the celery, then sprinkle with grated Parmesan.
  7. Bake in the oven for a few minutes until the cheese melts and forms a light crust. Remove from oven and allow it to settle for several minutes before bringing it to the table.

So, there’s my (well, Marcella’s) celery celebration. Any other ideas for this excellent and versatile friend of the fridge?


  1. I love celery. will definitely make this one, thanks Charlotte. Impressed at your ruse of Woodwork school to score a top meal from Senor each week. Do you plane the bigger celery stalks?

    Stephanie Alexander has a great recipe for a celery etc veg olive oil based sauce to go over scotch fillet.Complex and unique,like our Hostess, but full of naturally occurring vege salt.

    Need to consult Ms Grigson on celeriac, that’s one bumpy customer.

  2. Must check out Ms Alexander’s celery cerebrations, Jules. Hey I hear she has a NEW compendium out, called something like The Gardener’s Companion, about growing food and cooking it – it sounds too good and i am hereby beginning a campaign to get someone to give it to me for Christmas. Damn my birthday being over. Damn and damn it. Celeriac, yes – I feel too springy now to go back to that knobbly wintry thing, but should get a handle on it some time. I’ve had it cooked for me and it is delicious. Just never done it myself … hope your V time has been good, by the way, in productivity and culinary departments.

  3. Just browsing your recipes for inspiration and came across this delicious celery dish. It made me realise that I haven’t seen a bunch of celery for quite some time. Yesterday I paid 148 yen (AUD$1.90) for ONE STICK. Imagine how much a bunch would cost!! I do miss the flavour (I like it finely chopped in salads). I guess it’s just not part of the Japanese cuisine and is not about to become one at that price. I’m sure it would grow well in this warm and wet climate.

    Thanks for your delicious words and culinary secrets.

  4. Wow Joycie, that’s rather a shock. I wonder if you could grow it yourself? I’ve never grown celery, but surely it couldn’t be that hard? Unless it’s like garlic, and takes six months … bit tricky to time your dinner for that one. Do you find you are cooking much less Anglo style now you’re in Japan? I mean, are you cooking Japanese at home, or only when you eat out?

  5. Tonight we had garlic fried rice and noodle with shiitake mushrooms; crisp fried chicken with ponzu sauce and steamed green vegetables. I think it’s a Japanese variation on meat and three veg. I try to cook Japanese dishes, but end up serving them western style, all together in one bowl, instead of in several small bowls. Also still like pasta on a regular basis. A friend has lent me several Japanese cookbooks in English which have been really helpful. Harumi is said to be “Japan’s answer to Delia Smith”. Her recipes are easy and very tasty and fresh. They are also a bit of blend; traditional Japanese dishes with occasional non-Japanese flavours (eg. basil, coriander, parmesan)

  6. Very excited about the new salon.com food section starting up – and straightaway, a couple of fab-sounding celery recipes.


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