Magic of celery

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Food The humble herb, rich in calcium and low-calorie dietery fibre, can even add a twist to desserts

Herb central Use celery to make unusual dishes Photo: V. Ganesan
Herb central Use celery to make unusual dishes Photo: V. Ganesan

Y ou might think it bizarre: celery sorbet with a little dressed celery salad; goat-cheese -mousse balls coated with olive-oil-sautéed bread crumbs; macerated figs with balsamic vinegar. And those things go together on a plate, created by well known chef Brooks Headley.

Now for a few recipes.

Balsamic fig compote

(Time: 10 minutes; serves 8 to 10)


Sugar: 1/2 cup

Lemon: 1, use the zest of the strips

Dried figs: 1 cup

Balsamic vinegar: 1/2 cup

Method: Put the sugar, lemon zest and 1 cup water in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the sugar is dissolved. Put the figs in a medium bowl, pour the syrup over the figs and cool for 2 to 3 hours.

Drain and discard the syrup, then put the figs in a jar or another airtight container and add vinegar to cover. Cover and refrigerate for several hours or until ready to use. (Use leftover vinegar for drizzling or vinaigrettes.)

Goat-cheese mousse

(Time: 20 to 30 minutes; serves 8 to 10)


Honey: 1 1/2 tsp

Unflavoured gelatine: 1/2 tsp

Cream cheese: 6 ounces

Fresh goat cheese, softened: 6 ounces

Crème fraîche: 1/2 cup

Heavy cream: 1/4 cup

Sugar: 1/2 cup

Baguette: 1/4, thinly sliced

Olive oil: 1/4 cup

Method: Put the honey, 1 tablespoon water and a pinch of salt in a small saucepan over low heat; stir until the honey melts. Sprinkle the gelatin over the honey mixture and whisk until combined. Stir until it dissolves completely, about 4 minutes. Turn off heat. 

Meanwhile, use a standing mixer (with a whisk attachment, if you have one) to beat the cream cheese and goat cheese until light and fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the crème fraîche, cream and sugar, and continue to beat until smooth and creamy, another minute or so. Add the honey mixture and beat until light and fluffy, about a minute, then cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 1 day.

Meanwhile, heat the oven to 300. Put the baguette slices on a baking sheet and bake, turning halfway through, until somewhat but not completely dry, about 10 minutes. Put the bread in a food processor and pulse until the crumbs are coarsely chopped. Put the crumbs in a colander to sift out the finest crumbs and discard or reserve for another use. Put the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When it's hot, add the bread crumbs and a large pinch of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned. Drain on paper towels.

When ready to serve, use a small scoop or two teaspoons to shape the mousse into 1 1/2-inch oval balls and sprinkle them with the fried bread crumbs to coat.

Celery sorbet

( Time: 20 minutes; serves 8 to 10)

Sugar: 1 1/2 cups

Celery, roughly chopped: 1 1/2 pounds

Juice of 1 lime


Method: Put the sugar and 11/2 cups water in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the sugar is dissolved. Cool. (The syrup can be made in advance; cover and refrigerate for up to a week.) 

Working in 2 batches, put the syrup in a blender with the celery, lime juice and a large pinch of salt. Blend for 1 to 2 minutes. Refrigerate for 30 minutes, then press through a fine-mesh strainer lined with cheesecloth to remove the solids. (Or, if you have a juicer, juice the celery and combine in a bowl with the syrup, lime juice and salt.) Taste and add more sugar if you like. 

To make sorbet, freeze in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's directions. To make granita, pour into a shallow glass or ceramic pan and freeze for at least 2 hours, stirring to break up the crystals every 30 minutes or so. 





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