Stuffed Celeriac is a dish my lovely friend Semra whips up quite often and I know exactly why. It is absolutely delicious and I am thrilled to have her recipe now.
Semra was making it last week when I visited her so it’s all documented here. Really a very quick dish to prepare. She can chop up the bits and pieces required in 15 minutes and it takes just 30 minutes to cook.
It is considered to be a ‘zeytinyağlı’ – olive oil dish. This means that it is cooked using good olive oil and it’s served at room temperature.
Turkish Dinner Party Etiquette
I asked Semra what she likes to serve when guests come for dinner. Her answer to that was that there would be mezes placed on the table, such as hummus, or haydari (a minty yogurt dip) and perhaps some crispy fried cheese pastries known as sigara boreğı. Naturally, bread will be on the table too. These starters may be served with drinks beforehand or at the very beginning of the meal.
A zeytinyağlı dish would also be placed in the middle of the table and it could be picked at, any time up to dessert. Semra was very proud to tell me that her Olive Oil dish – Stuffed Celeriac was often the star of the meal.
Each guest would be given a bowl of soup and then the main meal that may or may not have meat in it would be served, along with a pilav (rice) dish and a salad. Followed of course by some kind of sweet and later a platter of sliced fruit, possibly sprinkled with nuts and honey.
She also mentioned that when her husband was alive and they had guests, that often a few bottles of the national alcoholic drink ‘raki’ would be consumed during the evening. In this case, the soup would be served a few hours after the meal rather than before. This is used to sober people up and take away the little hunger edge that alcohol can create. We are probably talking no earlier than 2am as the Turks sure know how to party.
NIGHT CLUB CULTURE
As many who live in Turkey know, a soup kitchen can do its best trade around 3am when people start streaming out of the nightclubs. Nothing like a good işkembe – tripe soup or a ‘kelle paca’ -sheep’s head soup to get you on the road! işkembe soup is well known for being a wonderful hangover remedy.
I haven’t ventured forth and tried either of those. The smell of the Tripe Soup is not to be taken lightly and the look of the lamb’s head just does something to me. One day perhaps I will be brave enough.
THE PROVENANCE OF THE STUFFED CELERIAC DISH
Now back to the Stuffed Celeriac. This recipe actually stems from the original version of Stuffed Artichoke an extremely popular dish in Spring time in Turkey, using just the heart of the artichoke. Celeriac however, being a root vegetable has a long season and can be found for at least a good 8 months of the year in the markets in Turkey.
Of course it is also are a lot more difficult to get the artichoke heart out of the plant unless you are lucky enough to find a market where the vendor is happy to do that for you.
I do see more and more sellers cutting the hearts out and dropping them in acidic water where they exhibit their handiwork. It is becoming more popular all the time to offer this, so perhaps the problem of doing it yourself no longer exists at all.
Artichokes will always remain a little of a luxury and the celeriac being very economical are a viable choice. The cost of one artichoke heart can set you back the equivalent of more than a kilo of celeriac. On top of that, it’s hard not to prefer this stunning combination with the exquisite flavour that celeriac brings to the dish.
Celeriac is not well known but slowly it is making it’s presence heard. The flavour of the stalks do resemble celery but the root has a more creamy, delicious flavour and a wonderful texture. It cooks quicker than carrots although it looks quite solid. If you have the opportunity to try one, it is very worthwhile.
Lastly it should be dressed with a sprinkling of dill or possibly fennel which the Turks in this area call Arapsaçı literally translated as Arabian Hair but the understanding of the word is actually a tangle, dogs’ dinner, knot, loop, confusion, mess, cock-up, woolly hair or a fuss!!
- 3 medium small celeriac, peeled and sliced into 2 thick wedges similar to an artichoke heart
- 200g peas fresh, frozen or in Turkey they often use conserved peas, drained from a tin or jar
- 1 large potato peeled and diced into small cubes
- 1 medium onion finely chopped
- 1 large carrot diced
- 2 Tbsp parsley (optional)
- ½ tsp sugar
- 100ml olive oil
- 1 lemon, halved
- 2 Tbsp washed rice
- I cup water
- 2 Tbsp dill (optional)
- Dig out the centres of the celeriac slightly to form a concave shape in which to hold the other vegetables
- Use half a lemon to rub all over the cut celeriac or place the celeriac in a shallow bowl of water with lemon squeezed in to prevent them turning brown. You can drop the squeezed lemon skin in too.
- In another bowl add the onion, potato, peas and carrot and parsley
- Chop the removed celeriac centres finely and also some stalks and leaves if desired
- Add the celeriac to the other vegetables and mix well
- Add sugar, juice of ½ lemon and mix through the vegetables
- Spoon the mixture into the celeriac circles
- Drizzle the olive oil over all
- Sprinkle the rice on top of each circle
- Add a cup of water around the celeriac
- Bring to boil gently then simmer very slowly for half an hour
- There should still be some water left in the pot when cooked
- Sprinkle dill on top to serve