Celery has a bad reputation – and it's not fair. It is monstrous the way we overlook it when it's such a versatile vegetable, both raw and cooked.
It's always useful to keep a head or two of leafy celery in your fridge to chop into a stock or dice up and throw into a stew – or else just pop into your Bloody Mary on a bleary Sunday morning.
We have fantastic British Fenland celery in season just now, so get some in and get cooking with it. It enhances dishes, particularly braised meat, in a way that is quite different from, say, leeks or onions.
Baked Guernsey Goddess with celery
This is not so much a recipe as just a delicious way to eat one of my favourite cheeses.
Guernsey Goddess is one of Blur's Alex James's range and is made by cheesemaker Pete Humphries at Whitelake Dairy.
It's the closest thing to a Vacherin Mont D'or you will find in Britain and the richness of the Guernsey cows' milk and the finish of Temperley cider brandy wash, means it has a touch of genius about it.
It's delicious served at room temperature, or baked as a sharing snack.
1-2 Guernsey Goddesses
4-6 sticks of celery, peeled if necessary
Preheat the oven to 200C/ gas mark 6.
Put the Guernsey Goddess into a small, tight-fitting, ovenproof pot, cover with a lid or foil, and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the cheese is soft and gooey in the middle.
Leave the celery whole or cut it down into large dipping sticks.
Serve the Goddess on a large serving plate with the celery sticks around it and have the second one on standby to quickly replenish.
Shaved celery hearts with apple and pickled walnuts
This is a take on a classic Waldorf salad. You can serve it as a starter on its own, in a selection, or as part of a cheese course. You could add nuggets of blue, hard or soft cheese to the salad, if you so desire.
2 heads of celery with the outer stems removed and trimmed to about 10-12cm
2-3 dessert apples, cored
3-4 pickled walnuts, quartered
For the dressing
2tbsp cider vinegar
3tbsp rapeseed oil
3tbsp vegetable or corn oil
2tsp Dijon or Tewkesbury mustard
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Then, using a mandolin or a very sharp knife, slice the celery as thinly as you can, lengthways.
Do the same with the apple and put them both in a mixing bowl with the pickled walnuts.
Whisk all of the ingredients together for the dressing, season well and mix with the celery and apple.
Leave in the bowl for 5-10 minutes, turning the mixture a few times, then transfer to a bowl and serve.
Spiced pork and celery broth
I had a soup rather like this at one of my favourite Chinese restaurants, Hunan, in Pimlico. I presume it's based on the classic method of clarifying a stock to make a consommé.
I always used to wonder, when I was at catering college, why the clarification, as it's known, ended up in the bin – now I've found a use for it.
For the stock
2ltrs chicken stock (2-3 good-quality cubes will do)
6-7 sticks of celery, roughly chopped (reserve a handful for the crust)
30g fresh root ginger, scraped and coarsely grated
1 medium onion, peeled, halved and roughly chopped
3 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
4tbsp light soy sauce
For the crust
300g minced lean pork
4-5 spring onions, trimmed and finely chopped
2 medium green chillies, finely chopped
The rest of the celery, finely chopped
A small handful of coriander, finely chopped
1tbsp freshly-grated root ginger
2 egg whites
Salt and freshly ground white pepper
Meanwhile, mix all of the ingredients together for the crust and then season. Mix with the cold stock by whisking it in.
Get a large, ovenproof casserole pan or individual casserole pots and pour in the mixture.
If using a large pan, bring it to a simmer on a low heat on the stove, stirring it a couple of times when it initially goes on to the heat – then leave it unstirred so the crust forms and eventually floats on the top of the broth.
At this point, the broth needs to just cook very gently for 30 minutes – a simmer plate is ideal or the lowest heat possible on your cooker, so the crust stays intact and doesn't break up into the broth.
If you are doing individual dishes, preheat the oven to 180C/gas mark 5, place the pots on a baking tray with the lid on and cook in the oven for 25-30 minutes, turning the oven down to gas mark 4 after 10 minutes.
Lambs' tongues with celery hearts
You should be able to get lambs' tongues from your butcher, but you will probably need to order in advance. They should be pretty cheap and you may well want to serve 3 per portion.
You can buy prepared celery hearts in most supermarkets now, which will save you some time.
8-12 lambs' tongues
1 onion, peeled, halved and finely chopped
300ml dry cider
1.5ltrs hot chicken stock
A few sprigs of thyme
1 bay leaf
2 heads of celery or 2 celery hearts cut to about 10-11cm long
2-3tbsp chopped parsley
Add the flour and stir well, then slowly add the cider and chicken stock and bring to a simmer. Add the thyme, bay leaf, tongues and celery hearts, cover with a lid and cook gently for 30 minutes.
Remove the tongues and celery and transfer to a tray to cool a little. Once cool enough to handle, peel the tongues and return to the simmering sauce and cook for another 30 minutes or so, or until tender.
The sauce should be a nice coating consistency; if not, remove the tongues and continue simmering the sauce until it thickens.
Quarter the celery hearts and return to the sauce with the tongues, celery and parsley and reheat for a couple of minutes. Serve.