The name “Imbolc” comes from Celtic origin: oimelc means “ewe’s milk,” after the lactating sheep that have given birth to their lambs. This is also the time of a dwindling food supply. Stored root vegetables from last autumn, along with fresh milk and lamb, are the main staples during this time of year in the northern climates. That is why these foods are typically used for an imbolc celebration.
Any root vegetable will work in a gratin. Try potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, parsnips, and even winter squash. Gratins aren’t picky. You really don’t need a recipe. Just make sure to thinly slice your onions and root vegetables. Use fresh cream or raw milk. Sometimes I sprinkle the top with almond flour when I add the cheese.
1 tablespoon pastured butter
1 medium white onion, thinly sliced
4 to 5 medium celery roots (about 3 pounds), peeled and thinly sliced
2 cups raw whole milk
2 tablespoons sweet rice flour or arrowroot powder
4 to 5 ounces organic or pastured cheese, sliced or grated
Herbamare or sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Garnish: Chopped fresh parsley
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Rub the butter into a 10-inch tart pan or au gratin pan. Sprinkle the bottom with a little Herbamare and black pepper. Place a thin layer of onions on the bottom. Then add a layer of sliced celery root, sprinkle on some of the rice flour, and then add a little sprinkling of Herbamare, black pepper, and nutmeg.
Repeat this until you are out of vegetables.
Be sure to end with a layer of celery root on top. Carefully pour the milk or cream over the gratin. Cover the pan with foil or another large oven-safe lid. Bake covered for about 50 minutes. Then uncover, add the cheese and bake uncovered for another 15 minutes or so.
Let cool for 15 minutes before serving. Garnish with chopped fresh parsley.
words, recipe & photos: ali segersten