Winter stew of Fenland celery, chorizo & cannellini beans

A winter warming stew
A winter warming stew

This winter warming dish uses Fenland celery, a delicious white crop which became the first English vegetable to earn Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status from the European Commission.

Celery is a popular crop in east England

The vegetable is grown using traditional celery methods in the rich peaty soil of the Fens across the east of England and harvested from October to December

The celery is grown in wide rows with deep trenches allowing allows the soil to be banked up around the celery as it grows leaving it with a unique nutty-sweet flavour and a less stringy texture, whilst still delivering celery’s crisp crunch. This ‘earthing up’ process keeps the celery warm and protected from frost as it battles to grow through the winter months. Covering up the celery with soil also blanches it giving the sticks a paler colour, hence its popular name of ‘white’ celery.

The growing method also allows more of the root to be kept; an exceptionally flavoursome section of the plant that often goes to waste.

Serves 4-6

Fenland celery, chorizo & cannellini beans stew

Preparation time: 15 minutes, plus soaking the beans overnight
Cooking time: Approx. 1 hour 30 minutes

2 tbsp olive oil
6 shallots, sliced
250g chorizo, cut into 2cm slices
2-3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp smoked paprika
½ head Fenland celery, each stalk cut into 3 pieces, plus a few leaves for garnish
1.5 litres chicken or vegetable stock
500g dried cannellini beans, soaked overnight in cold water
2 bay leaves
Salt & freshly ground black pepper
Small bunch flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped.

Heat the oil in a large saucepan and sweat the shallots until soft and translucent but not coloured at all.

Add the chorizo, turn up the heat a little and continue frying until the chorizo and shallots are lightly caramelized.

Add the garlic, smoked paprika and Fenland celery and fry for a further minute before pouring in the stock.

Finally add the drained beans and tuck in the bay leaves. Bring up to the boil and simmer steadily until the beans are soft and tender. This could take anything between an hour and an hour and a half depending on the dryness and age of the beans. Keep an eye on it and add a little cold water if it looks a bit dry at any stage.

When the beans are cooked, stir through the flat leaf parsley and season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Serve in deep bowls scattered with a few celery leaves.

Recipes & image: Fenland Celery

Bruce McMichael

Food writing, discovering food stories, meeting producers, chefs and food enthusiasts are all part of desire to inspire, inform my readers and fellow food lovers. I am a freelance writer, journalist and published author focusing on the international world of food and drink, culture and travel. In 2019 I graduated from the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Pollenzo, Italy with a Masters in Food Culture, Communication and Marketing. I am now a visiting Professor at the university teaching Food & Drink Writing. Based in London I travel widely, particularly across western Europe. I have chaired many conferences and meetings, spoken at conferences and events and often appear on radio and TV talking most about food, the business of food and being an entrepreneur. In 2017 I won an episode of the ITV (the UK-based national television channel) cooking competition show, 'Gordon Ramsay's Culinary Genius'. I took my children on holiday to Sicily with the prize money. As an experienced farmers' market manager and operator of a small marmalade/ preserves company, I am very familiar with the issues surrounding local food, farming, enterprise and the environment.

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