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Marinated Celery With Couscous And Pickled Raisins Makes The Perfect Packable Lunch

Hetty Lui McKinnon
July 15, 2023
Hetty Lui McKinnon
Food Writer, Recipe Developer & Cookbook Author
By Hetty Lui McKinnon
Food Writer, Recipe Developer & Cookbook Author
Hetty Lui McKinnon is a Chinese Australian cook and food writer, James Beard Foundation finalist, and author of five cookbooks.
July 15, 2023
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This salad will please crowds and surprise celery dissenters. Marinating the celery tames the strong grassy notes, bringing out a savory side and offering a tender and crisp bite. The pickled golden raisins are tart and fruity, bringing high and low acidic moments, delivering plump pops of tang with every mouthful. While feta is optional, it does bring a sharp saltiness that works beautifully with the other ingredients.



  • 4 celery stalks (about 8 oz/225 g), finely sliced (reserve any tender leaves)
  • 1 garlic clove, grated
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds or ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • 4 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon sugar (can be swapped with maple syrup)
  • extra-virgin olive oil
  • sea salt and black pepper
  • 1 cup (240 ml) vegetable stock or water
  • 1 cup (190 g) couscous
  • 3 ½ ounces (100 g) feta, crumbled (optional)
  • handful of soft herbs (dill, parsley, cilantro, chives), torn
  • ¼ cup roasted almonds, chopped

Pickled golden raisins:

  • ½ cup (70 g) golden raisins
  • ¼ cup (60 ml) apple cider vinegar
  • ¼ red onion or 1 shallot, sliced
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon sugar


  1. In a small bowl, combine the celery, garlic, red pepper flakes, cumin, apple cider vinegar, sugar and 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Season with 1 teaspoon of sea salt and a few turns of black pepper. Toss to combine and leave to marinate for 30–60 minutes at room temperature or overnight in the fridge.
  2. To make the pickled golden raisins, combine all the ingredients in a small bowl. Toss to combine and set aside to pickle for 30 minutes.
  3. Place the vegetable stock or water, 2 tablespoons of olive oil and ½ teaspoon of sea salt in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and add the couscous to the pan. Stir, then cover and let stand for 5 minutes. Fluff the couscous with a fork and set aside.
  4. In a large serving bowl, place the couscous, marinated celery and all the pickling liquid, the pickled golden raisins (drain off the raisin pickling liquid but keep it in case the salad needs more acidity), feta (if using) and herbs and toss to combine. Drizzle with 2–3 tablespoons of olive oil, season with sea salt and black pepper and toss again. Taste and, if it needs more acid, add 1–2 tablespoons of the raisin pickling liquid. Top with the almonds and serve at room temperature.


For gluten-free • replace the couscous with quinoa

Substitute • sugar: maple syrup • couscous: quinoa, farro, pearl couscous • feta: shaved pecorino • golden raisins: sultanas, dried cranberries

Vegetable swap • celery: fennel, cauliflower

From Tenderheart: A Cookbook About Vegetables and Unbreakable Family Bonds. © 2023 by Hetty Lui McKinnon. Excerpted by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Hetty Lui McKinnon author page.
Hetty Lui McKinnon
Food Writer, Recipe Developer & Cookbook Author

Hetty Lui McKinnon is a Chinese Australian cook and food writer. A James Beard Foundation finalist, she is the author of five cookbooks, including Tenderheart: A Cookbook About Vegetables and Unbreakable Family Bonds (2023), the much-loved To Asia, With Love (2021), the award-winning Family: New Vegetarian Comfort Food to Nourish Every Day (2019), Neighbourhood: Hearty Salads and Plant-Based Recipes from Home and Abroad (2017), and Community: Salad Recipes from Arthur Street Kitchen (2014). Hetty is also the editor and publisher of multicultural food journal Peddler and the host of the magazine’s podcast The House Specials. She is a regular recipe contributor to The New York Times, Bon Appetit,, and ABC Everyday; and her recipes have appeared in Food52, the Guardian, The Washington Post and more. Born and raised in Sydney, she now resides in Brooklyn, New York.