Braised Celery with Cheese and Onion Sauce
I never buy imported celery out of season because it never tastes anywhere near the same as our own.
I think it's at its best after a good November frost, and Fenland celery is particularly delicious when the black earth still clings to it and the stalks are white all the way up to the leaves. If you scrub the stalks under cold running water and dry them with a cloth, they'll stay crisp stored in a plastic bag in the lowest part of the fridge for several days, but remember to seal the bag well.
This recipe is taken from Delia Smith’s Complete Cookery Course, Delia Smith’s Complete Illustrated Cookery Course Serves 4
Prepare the celery by breaking off any outer stalks if they are coarse and damaged.
Then separate the rest of the stalks, leaving the inner ones attached to the root - peel off the outer root, then cut the inner stalks vertically so they still have some of the delicious root clinging to them. Now cut all the stalks in half horizontally. Then use a bristle brush to clean each one under cold running water.Next, blanch the celery by putting it in boiling, salted water for about 5 minutes. Drain well, reserving the cooking water.
Now, in the flameproof casserole, heat 1 oz (25 g) butter and the oil, add the prepared carrot and onion and cook for about 5 minutes. Add the drained celery and 5 fl oz (150 ml) of the cooking water. Sprinkle with the celery (or fennel) seeds and season with a little salt and black pepper. Place the casserole in the oven and bake, covered, for 30 minutes or until the celery is tender. When ready, transfer the vegetables to the dish, using a slotted spoon.
Empty the cooking liquid from the casserole into a measuring jug and make it up to 10 fl oz (275 ml) with the milk.
To make the sauce, heat the butter in a saucepan and fry the finely chopped onion until golden, then blend in the flour and cook for a couple of minutes before adding the milk mixture a little at a time, stirring well after each addition. Bring to simmering point, still stirring, and simmer gently for a minute or two, then remove from the heat and beat in the Cheddar cheese and egg yolk. Pour the sauce over the vegetables, sprinkle on the Parmesan cheese, and bake in the oven for a further 25-30 minutes or until you're sure it's all piping hot. Vegetarians may like to know that there is a vegetarian 'style' Parmesan available from Bookhams.com
Preheat the oven to gas mark 4, 350°F (180°C).