I've recently become besotted with the idea of making a savoury panna cotta, and as the the summer days are still lengthening I find myself with a little more time to experiment in the kitchen. Today I bit the bullet and made this for lunch. Creamy celeriac, served cold as a panna cotta, dotted with peas, and sitting on a bed of vibrant mint oil. On top a wobbly delicately slow poached egg yolk, covered with pea shoots. On the side pickled shavings of celery stalks curled onto celery leaves. An oozy combination of summer flavours and textures. The pickled celery adds some bite and cuts through the richness of the egg yolk and celeriac. The peas and celery leaves provide the pop and crunch of texture with the mint oil bringing the whole dish together - mint being a classic combination with peas, vinegar and velvety celeriac.
The inspiration for this came from my Saturday morning shop in the local food co-op where I picked up a beautiful bunch of celery in full leaf. I knew I wanted to use the leaves in salady type dish and had some celeriac leftover in the fridge and I though it would be fun to find some way of using the two ingredients. It drifted from there to making a celeriac panna cotta, which was going to be served cold (as I was going to use gelatin as opposed to getting all modernist on it and using agar-agar to serve warm). The pickled shaved celery stalks made sense as another way of bringing acidity and another celery texture to the plate. The peas and slow poached egg yolk were last minute additions (while the panna cotta was setting) as I searched for a sauce and another vegetable to bring a bit of bite.
Technique wise this has hat-tips to a couple of my favourite cook books and adapted from them... the recipe is to make just two. Scale up as required.
Celeriac Panna Cotta was adapted from Thomas Keller's Cauliflower Panna Cotta in the French Laundry cook book. Basically cut about 250grams of celeriac into finger sized pieces. Barely cover with water and two tablespoons of butter and simmer for 30 minutes. While the celeriac is simmering take a sheet of leaf gelatin and cover with cold water and leave to bloom for 5 minutes. When the celeriac has softened (after25- 30 mins) add 250ml of cream and simmer for a further 10 minutes. Pour into a blender and blitz. Pass through a fine sieve and stir in the gelatin to the still warm celeriac. Spoon into ramekins and put in the fridge to set for 3 hours.
Slow poached egg yolk idea was inspired by the Noma cookbook, but using a technique from the Momofuku cookbook. These are my new favourite thing. Basically you simmer the eggs in their shells at a low temperature for 45 minutes. Then when you crack the eggs you have this amazing delicately poached egg, barely held together. You can easily use your fingers to scrape away the egg white, leaving a perfectly poached egg yolk, which is just awesome. The brilliant thing about this technique is that you can prepare them well in advance - think about it - slow poach 7 eggs in their shells on a Saturday morning, and you can keep them in their shells in the fridge, ready to be slowly reheated and used when you want during the week. The technique is simple. In the largest saucepan you can find, place a steamer basket to keep the eggs from touching the bottom of the pan. Stick in a thermometer and heat the water to 62C or 140F -145F and simmer for 40 to 45mins. I found keeping half the pan on the oven ring allowed me to regulate the temperature without having to jump off my chair every few minutes. Crack the eggs, pour them out and scrub away the egg whites and you have a beautifully poached yolk.
The celery stalks were shaved with a potato peeler and quick pickled in a brine of white wine vinegar (1 cup), hot water from the tap (1 cup) and a tablespoon each of salt and sugar.
The mint oil is just a handful of fresh mint leaves, blanched for 30 seconds, and doused with olive oil, blitzed for a few minutes. Then pass through a sieve.
Peas were simply plunged in boiling water for a minute. Then blanched in ice cold water.
Turn out the panna cotta, pop the peas on top, scoop on the egg yolk, curl the pickled celery on the celery leaves, throw on pea shoots and serve.