Baked Celery Hearts with Butter and Lemon

I wrote this from home in Dallinghoo, where the snowdrops are just coming out.

The whole family was at home on Thursday evening after the funeral of one of my grandparents (Granny Johnson, whose baked alaska is one of my most enduring food memories from childhood, not to mention majestic scones, apple pie, lemon drizzle cake, and the first time I ever ate tongue), and mum was busy working in preparation for a big day of teaching, so I made supper. 

The main event was slow-cooked lamb shoulder, of which, more later. But as one of the sides I made this celery dish, which my brother Guy said was the most interesting and delicious use of the vegetable he had eaten. Celery is often relegated to a stock-base ingredient, or simply eaten raw with some salt or in a salad, however, cooked like this it makes a worthwhile vegetable dish in its own right. To extend the potential of this, it could be covered in a white sauce and poached or chopped hard-boiled egg, or gratinated with breadcrumbs and cheese to make it more substantial. However, just like this is very good. 

Served 5 as a side dish

Ingredients: 

2 celery hearts, trimmed, but maintaining the connecting base, cut into about 6-8 sections lengthways (so half, half again, etc)

about 6-8 tiny cubes of unsalted butter

juice ½ lemon

salt and pepper

How I made it:

Arrange the celery, cut lengthways into a ceramic oven dish. Place dots of butter all over. Squeeze over lemon, and season. Bake for about 40 minutes in a medium oven. Remove when soft, and serve.

Eaten with:

Lamb, and roasted carrots. Red wine.

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