Crunchy, water-rich celery is an herbaceous plant belonging to the parsley family, like carrot, parsnip and cumin (the word 'celery' is derived from the Greek word selinon, 'parsley'). The long stalks surround a tender central heart, and are topped by serrated leaves whose look is a nod to celery's parsley kinship. The darker leaves and stalks have a more pronounced and sometimes bitter taste, while the paler portions are more mellow. The whole plant can be consumed cooked or raw, and is often included in the base flavouring of numerous dishes in the form of low and slowly cooked mirepoix.
I like using the outer, tougher stems of celery in cooked dishes and prefer snacking on the more delicate inners raw or used in salads. Fresh celery leaves are too often tossed out, but they are also great in salads or stews, and invoke that hint of herby parsley. It has been another steamy summer week, which equates to more cooling salads at our table. To ensure a hearty enough salad to call it a meal I like to be sure there's plenty of grains or beans to fill out the greens and vegetables. When crunchy diced celery stalks and cool cucumber are tossed together with sweet apple and salty feta, handfuls of fresh herbs and toasted seeds, all against a backdrop of nutty, chewy freekeh and chickpeas, well then you have one heck of a salad dish.
200g Freekeh, Bulgur or Quinoa, cooked
1 Cup Celery, mostly heart, finely sliced
1 bunch worth Celery Leaves, roughly chopped
1 Apple, quartered and thinly sliced
1 medium Cucumber, diced
4 Spring Onions, finely sliced
400g Chickpeas, drained
75g Feta, crumbled
Couple handfuls Toasted Seeds or Nuts
Couple handfuls Fresh Herbs (mint, carrot top, parsley), finely chopped
4 tablespoons Olive Oil
1 Lemon, juiced
Pinch of Sea Salt and Pepper, to taste
Optional- few handfuls of chopped dried fruit for a sweet touch
The How To:
Gently fluff up the freekeh, or whichever grain you've chosen. In a large salad bowl mix the celery, apple, cucumber, onion and chickpeas. Add freekeh and stir through. Over the top scatter feta, seeds or nuts, and fresh herbs. Combine olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper and pour over the salad.
Did you know you can regrow celery from the base? Chop the celery stalks from the base, leaving about 3cm. Stand the base in shallow water for about a week, until new green growth emerges. You can then plant the celery in soil. Reduce, reuse, recycle, regrow!