recipe

vegetables, walnuts and cheese spread across a table
Fungi salad with celery, walnuts  and parsnip
Ingredients for fungi salad with celery, walnuts  and parsnip
vegetables, walnuts and cheese spread across a table Fungi salad with celery, walnuts  and parsnip
Ingredients for fungi salad with celery, walnuts  and parsnip
Credit: Earl Carter

Fungi salad with celery, walnuts and parsnip

Karen Martini is a chef, restaurateur, author and television presenter. She is a food editor of The Saturday Paper. @karen_martini

Credit: Earl Carter

This is a showy early-winter salad, equally delicious and at home as a starter or alongside a steak or pork chop or with a stuffed, roasted chook.

The salad starts with roasting parsnips, celebrating the richness of the warm parsnips and the sweet intensity they have. Cutting them into discs gives an added sense of shape to the salad – they are almost like a chip, and you should try one or two as soon as they come out of the oven.

Composing the salad, I really wanted to use raw mushrooms to absorb flavours and to add their own mild taste. They are a little earthy and work well against the slight citrus kick on the crisp, refreshing celery. That is in turn balanced by the welcome touch of sweet, deeply flavoured balsamic and salty, nutty, savoury Parmigiano Reggiano.

The heart of the celery is really important, as are the leaves. When I was a kid growing up, that was the thing my mum would leave in the fridge – but it is the best and most tender part. In some ways, it’s what this whole salad is about. If I’m doing a fennel salad I will often add celery heart. It shaves the same way and adds a little surprise.

The walnuts are also magic. You will be impressed with how good they taste once roasted in a dry pan to scorch a little. The garlic gently perfumes the nut and adds another dimension.

Now, you could throw everything in a bowl rather than composing it the way I have. It will taste the same, but it won’t look as good.

Ingredients

Serves 4-6

Time: 45 minutes preparation + cooking

  • 15 walnuts
  • 80-100ml extra virgin olive oil
  • salt flakes
  • 2 small garlic cloves
  • black pepper
  • 2 small-medium parsnips
  • 1 tsp fennel or anise seeds
  • ½ lemon
  • 5 sprigs thyme, leaves picked
  • 1 shallot, very finely diced
  • 1 celery heart, shaved, some pale inner stalks, plus 2 handfuls yellow celery leaves
  • 12 mushrooms (champignon or shiitake or Swiss brown)
  • 40ml aged Modena balsamic vinegar
  • 120g Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
Method
  1. Preheat the oven to 180ºC, fan forced.
  2. Place a small pan over medium heat. Add the walnuts and cook for five minutes, tossing every minute or so to toast them. Tip onto a plate to cool slightly, drizzle with a little oil and sprinkle with salt flakes.
  3. Using a mortar and pestle, grind the garlic to a creamy paste. Add the warm walnuts and crush a little to break up. Season with black pepper and set aside.
  4. Line a baking tray with baking paper. Slice the parsnips in rounds about 1.5-centimetres thick, leaving the thin end of the stem whole. Toss in a little oil, season and add the fennel or anise seeds. Lay flat on the tray and roast until cooked and golden (about 25 minutes).
  5. Peel and segment half the lemon and cut the segments into little pieces or triangles. Add to a bowl with the thyme leaves and the finely diced shallot.
  6. Finely slice the celery heart on a mandolin into a bowl and add to the lemon. Season with salt and pepper. Add the celery leaves and some oil.
  7. Slice the raw mushrooms finely on a mandolin (or as finely as you can) and lay them on a platter. Drizzle with some extra virgin oil and season with salt and pepper.
  8. Arrange the warm roasted parsnips on top and follow with the dressed celery and lemon mix. Drizzle over the balsamic, allowing it to pool here and there, and sprinkle over the crushed garlic-scented walnuts.
  9. Finely grate the Parmigiano Reggiano over the top. Start in the centre and then go towards one side. Don’t blanket the whole salad – you want to see the layers – but do be generous. Drizzle over some more balsamic and serve.

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on June 3, 2023 as "Most valuable layers".

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