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.
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