Celeriac, or root celery, as it is sometimes called, is a terrific vegetable. It makes a marvellous soup, is great roasted or as a purée and is the essential ingredient in the classic remoulade, in which case it is eaten raw. The flavour of celeriac is milder and sweeter than the green celery we are more familiar with. These crisp fritters are served here as a main course but would also be very good as a starter, in which case the recipe would serve eight people. I use peppery watercress sprigs and radicchio leaves here, but you could substitute a mixture of leaves.
MAKES 4 Sunflower oil, for deep frying 120g celeriac (weight after peeling), peeled and cut into fine julienne, like long matchsticks 12 watercress sprigs 12 radicchio leaves 1 ripe pear, cut in quarters lengthways, cored and thinly sliced 16 walnut halves 4 generous teaspoons homemade mayonnaise 28 capers
BATTER 140g plain flour Pinch of salt 1½ tablespoons extra virgin olive oil 100ml water 1 large egg white, beaten until quite stiff
DRESSING 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil 2 tablespoons lemon juice ½ teaspoon honey Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 Make the batter for frying the fritters first. Place the flour and a pinch of salt in a large bowl. Add the olive oil and whisk in enough water to form a smooth batter the consistency of thick cream. Chill for 30 minutes, then fold in the stiffly beaten egg white.
2. Whisk all the dressing ingredients together. Taste and correct the seasoning.
3. When ready to cook the fritters, heat 10cm of sunflower oil in a heavy-bottomed cast iron or stainless steel saucepan until it reaches 180°C, or if you have a deep fat fryer, that will work perfectly.
4. Mix the celeriac through the batter. Gently drop four large spoonfuls of the mixture into the hot oil and cook until crisp and golden brown on both sides, which should take about 10 minutes in total. Remove from the oil, drain on kitchen paper and keep warm in a low oven. They will remain crisp for 20 minutes or so.
5. To serve, place the salad leaves, sliced pear and walnuts in a large bowl and dress with the well-mixed dressing. Divide between four plates and place a fritter on top of each salad. Drop 1 teaspoon of mayonnaise on top of the fritters and scatter on the capers. Add a few grains of sea salt and serve immediately.
Rory O’Connell’s CELERIAC FRITTERS