My first experience inside a professional kitchen was at a pop-up restaurant called The Young Turks at the Ten Bells. I lucked out: although only for a few weeks, I was observing and learning from two chefs, James Lowe and Isaac McHale, who within a couple of years had both achieved Michelin stars, and seeing, from the inside, one of the most influential happenings in east London’s rapidly evolving food scene.
The menu changed each week, but I remember one regular component that involved diced celeriac, which was left to sweat, steam and eventually brown in a mass of butter. Over that time, the celeriac loses a considerable amount of water and becomes extremely sweet. I can’t remember the exact ratios or even what it was served with – probably pheasant, grouse or partridge – but it’s an idea I’ve replicated as a side numerous times since. The game birds just mentioned, plus offal dishes like braised oxtail, pork faggots or calves’ liver and onions, get on with it famously.
- Yield: 6 Servings
- 80 g butter
- 1.2 kg celeriac, peeled and cut into 1–2 cm cubes
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Put the butter in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan (for which you have a lid) over a medium-high heat. Add the celeriac while the butter melts along with ½ teaspoon salt. Stir the celeriac so that each piece is glossed with melted butter, then reduce the heat to low-medium. Cover, leaving the lid slightly ajar, and cook for 15–20 minutes. During this time the celeriac is largely steaming itself as its natural water content boils and evaporates.
- Once much of the moisture has gone you’ll hear a change in sound as the vegetable starts to fry. At this point (probably around 15 minutes in), remove the lid and cook for about 10 minutes more, stirring only occasionally and allowing the celeriac to colour a little.
- Remove from the heat when you have a few brown edges and the celeriac is sweet, but not so soft that it turns to mush. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve immediately.