Cook: Celery Fritters – gluten free (and FAILSAFE); a recipe from 1744
Florence White’s recipe for frying celery is taken from a Kitchen Garden book from 1744, called Adam’s Luxury and Eve’s Cookery.
I found the book at the British Library and was eager to see why Florence had picked this recipe in particular – and what other vegetable goodness might be found in the original old book. What I found, was quite a surprise.
The first half of the book is dedicated to growing the vegetables.
The “Cellery” chapter is very detailed and explains that if cleverly planted in a staggered manner, celery will produce a crop all winter. The way to achieve this is in part by ‘earthing’ the celery as it grows. First of all, when the seeds are planted, compost or ‘dung’ should be dug in immediately under the seed. Then as the celery head grows, the heart is earthed by surrounding it with clean, dry soil, not too high. This also helps keep the celery pale, almost white. It should be done at least 3 to 4 times, but to make the crop last, it can be done up to 6 times.
‘This will produce a cellery blanched five or six inches deep, you when you may begin to use it. If protected from frost by a covering of clean straw, it will keep producing all winter, all the way till Easter’ Adam’s Luxury and Eve’s Cookery
In part two of the book, Eve’s Cookery, we find surprising recipes for cooking celery as a vegetable to accompany food – something we rarely do today, rather using it chopped in salads or to flavour stocks and broths.
My surprise, was to find that Florence White has in fact greatly adjusted the recipe! Her early 20th Century form uses 1 egg; flour 2 oz; salt; and a little Rhenish Wine (in these days use milk, quoth she); butter or fat for frying; some good brown gravy, or sharp sauce.
That is a very different consistency of fritter to the original, which is almost more of a rich French toast of celery.
Here is my FAILSAFE, gluten-free, dairy-free 21st Century version…
If you don’t have to be failsafe, feel free to exchange the rice milk for a sweet wine – you could add an extra egg and reduce the flour to see what the more custardy consistency might taste like. The 1744 book suggests serving with (more) butter!
CELERY FRITTERS or “To Fry Celery”
Gluten Free, Dairy Free and FAILSAFE
Prep Time: 5 mins
Cooking Time: 40 mins
- 1 head of celery
- 80gm rice flour
- 60ml rice milk
- 40ml sparkling mineral water
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- 1 egg, separated, white whipped stiff
- sunflower oil or clarified butter for frying
- Wash and dry the celery stalks, removing the greens and saving them for your salad.
- Snap the very bottom white end of each stalk about 1cm in, dragging the strings right up to the thinner top end to remove most of them. Discard the strings.
- Cut the stalks into 5cm lengths.
- Steam or boil the stalks for 20-30mins then allow them to cool. (The 1744 recipe says to ‘squeeze’)
- Mix the rice flour, rice milk, sparkling water, salt and egg yolk to a smooth batter.
- Fold in your stiff egg white.
- Heat your oil and dip the celery stalks in the batter before throwing them into the frypan. If your oil is shallow, turn them when golden brown on the underside. If your deep-frying, fry until golden brown and remove onto paper towel to drain.
I served them with a traditional Sweet Brown Sauce, made by a lovely Yorkshire lass in her own kitchen and picked up on our recent Ripon trip.
Even those in the family who don’t like celery loved these fritters.
Adam’s Luxury and Eve’s Cookery provides these other recipes for Celery
To Pickle Cellery
Cut in 2” lengths and blanch in boiling water for 10 minutes**. Boil up vinegar with spice, skim it and leave to cool. Add the celery and it will keep it’s colour. You may preserve cabbage in the same way.
To Stew Cellery
Flour combined with a knob of butter (so a sauce base that will thicken), bacon (fried into the butter/flour combination – bacon would have been a far more wholesome, additive-free proposition back then), mace, cloves, salt, pepper and cream. This would create a richly flavoured fricassee of celery.
A Ragoo of Cellery
Boil, squeeze then sauté the sliced, blanched cellery in veal stock. When cooked, add a walnut of flour combined in butter, cook for 2 minutes until slightly thickened, add a drop of vinegar then serve.
With any one of these flavourful and nutritious recipes from 1744, you can enjoy Celery as a featured side dish.
Do drop me a line in the comments below if you try any of these variations or have any thoughts to add! I love hearing from you.
** Tip for Blanching – For green vegetables, drop them into already fast-boiling water and keep them at a high boil until the moment the vegetables rise. Quickly remove from the boiling water and douse in cold water. They’ll be perfectly cooked and will retain their rich, natural green. Thank you Adam’s Luxury and Eve’s Cookery.