Chef Jay’s Celeriac V’ish Fillets
November 5, 2021
Jason McNamara (Jay Mac) is the creator of The Kind Kitchen, a vegan comfort food café in Woodstock, Cape Town and on the Constantia Uitsig wine estate. Jay trained at the Natural Epicurian School of Culinary Arts in Austin, Texas. Having mastered the art of turning mushrooms into chicken, carrots into lox, celeriac into fish and beetroot into burgers, Jay innovatively reimagines all your favourite dishes, from mac ‘n cheese, chicken wings, burritos, bao buns and maki rolls, to burgers and bunny chow.
Celeriac is the root of a type of celery plant. This delicacy, harvested in the winter months, is mostly used for soups and purées, but it can be turned into a vegan alternative to white fish. Go traditional and serve this with chips, or opt for spicy potato wedges and a side salad. The celeriac fillets need time to marinate, so start your preparations in good time, or even the day before.
Makes 6–8 fillets
(± 100 g each)
600 g celeriac root
3–4 Tbsp olive oil
2–3 Tbsp lemon juice
Ground black pepper
2 nori sheets
1 Tbsp sea salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 cup (250 ml) warm water
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/3 cup (80 ml) white vinegar
1 tsp sugar
Wash the celeriac root and peel with a vegetable peeler. Cut away the stalk to leave a flat surface, then with the bulb standing on the flat end, cut 6–8 wedges (to resemble fillets of fish). Place the wedges on a baking tray and drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice. Season with salt and black pepper and use your hands to toss until well-coated. Bake in a preheated oven at 200°C for 20 minutes, turning halfway. Remove from the oven and allow to cool before adding to the brine.
Tear the nori sheets into a blender with the salt and pepper and blend to a fine powder. Combine the nori powder with warm water, olive oil, vinegar and sugar in a large, non-metallic dish. Add the cooled celeriac wedges and marinate for at least 1 hour, or overnight, if possible.
1 cup (250 ml) flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp onion powder
½ tsp garlic powder
500 ml beer (lager or pilsener)
or sparkling water
Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a mixing bowl. Add the seasonings and whisk to combine. Add the beer, about half a cup (125 ml) at a time, whisking between each addition, until you have a thick, smooth batter with no lumps. Place in the fridge to chill. (The batter can be made a few hours ahead.)
1 cup (250 ml) flour
3–4 sheets nori, cut in half
500 ml sunflower or canola oil,
Tartare sauce, for serving
Lemon wedges, for serving
Fresh dill, for serving
Preparing the Fillets
1 Place the flour in a shallow bowl and remove the batter from the fridge.
2 Remove the celeriac wedges from the brine and pat dry with paper towel. Wrap each wedge in nori until completely covered, cutting the nori to size if necessary. Squeeze gently to help the nori to stick to the celeriac. Dip into the flour, coating all sides, then dip into the batter.
3 Heat the oil in a large pan over high heat (± 180°C) until bubbles start to form. Using a slotted spoon, slide a few wedges at a time into the oil and fry for 3–5 minutes, turning to make sure all sides brown equally. Remove and place on a cooling rack set over paper towel to catch excess oil. Repeat until all the wedges are cooked. Serve with tartare sauce, lemon wedges and a crisp salad.
½ cup (125 ml) vegan mayo
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
½ English cucumber, chopped into small cubes
1 punnet fresh dill, finely chopped
2 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
Salt and ground black pepper to taste
Combine the mayo, mustard, cucumber and chopped dill in a small bowl. Add half the lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste. Check the seasoning and adjust as necessary. Keep cool in the fridge until ready to serve.
- Celeriac root is seasonal. If you can’t get it, substitute banana blossoms or tofu. To prepare banana blossoms, squeeze them in your hands to drain off any excess water. Divide into fillets (± 100 g each) and wrap them in nori, then follow the coating and dipping instructions as above. For tofu, drain 350 g firm or extra-firm tofu, and cut into triangles 5 mm thick. Cut nori sheets to the same shape as the tofu. Place a piece of nori on each side, then follow the coating and dipping instructions as above.