Beef and Celery Casserole

I feel a cold coming on. A nasty sinus headache and the rather sensitised sense of smell that accompanies it. 

So I find myself desirous of something warm and nutritious with a citrusy tang. Something nestled in a great blob of stodge. Beef and celery Casserole….yup that’s the one.

Now celery is one of the work horses of the kitchen. It does a lot of heavy lifting in Soffrito, stocks and soups, yet unlike carrots or onions it never gets a starring role, never gets to be a delicious side dish, it just quietly goes about its business adding taste and texture. Never a murmur of complaint. 

In this dish however it becomes the star ingredient, and as such it goes in at the end rather than the beginning.

This dish has its origins in Persia, Khoresh Karafs - Celery Stew, and is traditionally served with rice, however I prefer to Anglicise it up with satiny mashed potatoes that most assuredly do not have the heart foundation tick.

Heavy on the cream and butter please.

Rather astoundingly research into what Turmeric does yielded me up a variety of studies into its health benefits as an anti-inflammatory and the variety of health supplements that contain it.  Not satisfied I refined the search to include taste and lo and behold turmeric lattes rushed to the fore.

Finally I was able to pinpoint that it adds a pungent, sometimes bitter flavour when not paired with the warming nature of cinnamon or ginger, and is used as a substitute for saffron when colouring dishes, with that caveat of bitterness. 

So often thinking about food has an organic nature and where you end up may be some distance from where you started, but probably because I NEED this comforting dish, rather than just want it; and because I’m not feeling particularly adventurous today, I am going with the 40 year old classic outlined below. The citrusy punch from the lemon rind added near the end of cooking is nirvana.


500 g skirt steak

6 small onions  

3 stalks celery 

1T flour  

Salt and Pepper

3-4 T oil  

1/2 cup red wine  

1/2 cup water 

1 bay leaf  

6-8 slivers of lemon rind



Slice the meat into finger-thick strips across the grain.  Peel onions but leave whole.  Cut celery into finger length pieces.  Season the flour and dust meat lightly.  Brown onions in oil, then brown meat quickly, and place in casserole.  Add red wine to the pan and stir to get the pan juices mixed into it.  Add water and bring to the boil.  Place the celery in the casserole and add the bay leaf.  Check the seasonings of the pan sauce, and pour this over the contents of the casserole. Cover closely and place in 350oF/180oC oven for 2 hours. 15 minutes before serving scatter thin slivers of lemon rind into it.  Serve with mashed potato.