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Thursday, 27 December 2012

Braised celery in tomato sauce

Our Christmas was a family affair this year, and our meal was a traditional seasonal favorite: pork and celery stew in an egg and lemon sauce. Here, pork is still the cheapest meat after chicken, and during the festive season, Greek pork was being sold on special (imported pork, once hardly ever seen in supermarkets, is now more commonly sold). My husband likes to get invovled in the preparation of this dish. I cook the meat, he prepares the celery.

greek celery

Greek celery (σέλινο - SE-li-no) is different from the light green head of celery usually sold in supermarkets. It is dark green and has tough stalks, which grow out of something similar to a celeriac root (although it is not always tender enough to eat). This year, I was given a huge bush full of celery from my uncles' farm. When my husband saw it, he told me it would probably be too much for the meat that we were going to cook. I knew this, but still managed to convince him that we would need all of it. One of my uncles told me about a tasty recipe that he often cooks using celery in tomato as a side dish to fish, which I wanted to try.

After boiling the celery (which takes a long time, due to the toughness of the stalks - generally speaking, Greeks do not like chewy vegetables), I removed two large portions of celery and used it in the following dish.

You need:
1/2 cup olive oil
1 large onion, minced
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
1-2 large tomatoes, peeled and grated
250g boiled greek celery (stalks and leaves), cut in chunks
home-made apricot chutney (optional)
salt and pepper
Saute the onion and garlic in the olive oil till the onion wilts. Add the celery and mix well. Then add the tomato and seasonings, and mix again. At this point, I added my home-made apricot chutney, but you can probably use any other chutney, added for some extra flavour)., and mine got a little oomph here, as it took away the bitterness of the celery taste.


As the celery is already cooked, allow the sauce to bind (about 30 minutes). If preferred, raw celery can be added and allowed to simmer in the tomato sauce with 1-2 cups of water (depending on how tender you want your celery). This makes a delicious vegetarian dish, served with bread and feta cheese. I also paired it with a Malagouzia wine, which I found was a perfect pairing for the light sauce of the meal.

A nice addition to this recipe would be some leeks, to vary the recipe a little. The pork and celery recipe can also be adapted to be cooked in tomato sauce instead of egg and lemon. It's all a question of taste.

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