I have found a new culinary devotion in the form of celery seeds! They are the perfect store cupboard herb to juju up your cooking adding a real flavour punch. My first awareness of this great ingredient came via a creamy potato salad which had celery seeds added to the mayo, boosting not only the flavour but also its visual appeal. Since this discovery I have been adding them to all sorts of dishes and have found them wonderfully helpful too. If a recipe calls for actual celery and my fridge is without, I add some seeds and still get the flavour as they have the benefit of tasting exactly like celery. Celery seeds can also be a saviour for people who struggle with celery’s stringy texture but still require the flavour in a dish – though I would argue those people haven’t eaten it properly prepared and cooked!
Now to confuse you a bit – celery seeds do not actually come from the celery we buy for its stalks! Celery was cultivated and developed in the 17th Century from smallage or ‘wild celery,’ which grew all over Europe. Smallage is now mainly grown in Asia where the plant’s stronger flavour is preferred and its white flowers produce the seeds. These seeds can be quite strong, so in soups I just add a moderate pinch. They have this magical way of balancing the flavours which the French certainly use, as celery is part of a Mirepoix, the basis of many a classical dish. Now talking of magic, it is interesting to learn they have been used in traditional Indian medicine for their anti–inflammatory properties and for arthritis relief. Hope you are starting to get excited about these great seeds too!
One of my favourite uses for them is in fluffy dumplings served on top of a hearty beef, beer and horseradish stew. Just follow your normal recipe and add a little dry English Mustard powder and celery seeds to taste and your dumplings will suddenly have the vavavoom factor!
Another dish that benefits from celery seeds is the humble Shepherd’s Pie. When making the mash topping, instead of adding butter use a little olive oil and add some celery seeds. The mash gets a lovely crunch on top and the flavour of the seeds really complements the meat.
The Edmonds Cheese Scone can be beautifully enhanced with celery seeds and if you are inclined to make cheese straws or cheese biscuits, again this useful seed will add a new twist to a favourite recipe.
For those who are fans of a Bloody Mary you will be aware of celery salt which can be easily made by grinding one part celery seeds with two parts salt. This lovely salt can then be used as a rub for meat or even to flavour popcorn!
Celery seeds are extremely versatile; they can be tossed in salads, added to pickles and chutneys or sprinkled over cooked vegetables before serving. For more information about the wonderful health benefits of celery seeds this posting form Maryland University in the USA makes very interesting reading and encourages the belief they belong in my medicine cabinet as well as my larder!