Carrots for Connoisseurs

Carrots are possibly the most underestimated and misunderstood denizens of the vegetable patch. The root vegetable equivalent of cannon fodder. Nothing could be further from the truth. Daucus carota subspecies sativa is a real fighter. They’re shock troops, the elite, the SAS and 101st Airborne Division. They should be flying around the kitchen in  Blackhawk gunships with Ride of the Valkyries playing very loud.

One of the reasons they’re so good is that they’re amazingly forgiving; they’re really hard to make a nonsense of, and even if you do you can puree them with something and Lo! They’re scrummy again.

So here are some of my favourite ways of cooking them. You can do them on the hob, or nuke them in the microwave. Come on, you’re all grown ups now. Work it out.

A tip. I never ever ever peel carrots. Give them a good wash, and dry them well, but don’t peel them. This applies in spades if you’re going to roast them (see later).

Plain carrots tarted up

Top and tail some carrots, and eat the tails as a little treat while you press on.

Cut the carrots into batons

Stick them in a heavy pan, and add about 2 oz/50g of salted butter cut into small cubes. Gently heat the pan, and keep things moving as the butter melts. Don’t let the butter brown.

When the butter has melted, give things a final stir, turn the heat down, and put a tight lid on things. Just leave them alone for about 5 minutes. Take the lid off, and stir again. Check the texture to see if they’re to your liking.

Now the genius bit.

Add about a half teaspoonful of ground nutmeg

Or two or three big leaves of basil, finely shredded. I know coriander is regarded as de rigueur, but basil really is good.

Stir gently, and serve.

Boiled carrots tarted up

You’ll need some carrots. These variants work with either slices, though not too thin, or batons.

Boil the carrots in about the same volume of lightly salted water. Or nuke ‘em up in the microwave; use a Pyrex basin, add a tablespoon of water, and a smidgeon of salt, cover with Clingfilm. Don’t forget to pierce the Clingfilm or you’re going to spend a lot of time cleaning your microwave when things have exploded

Cook till the texture is to your liking, but I would suggest you don’t boil them to death.

Drain the carrots well in a sieve/colander, and put them back on a low heat, or back in the basin. You don’t need to cover them at this point.

Stir in any one of the following. Any more would be self indulgent

            Two tablespoons of cream cheese, or

            Two tablespoons of double cream, or Elmlea double if you’re a serious veggie, or

            A heaped tablespoon of finely crumbled Cheshire or white Stilton, or

            A teaspoon of shop bought mint sauce. Sounds odd, but trust me, it works.

            A handful of pine nuts or husked sunflower seeds, and a tablespoon of hoisin sauce.        

A tablespoon of rice wine vinegar and a small pinch of sugar

When I say stir in, I mean it. All you’re doing is warming the newly added ingredients.

Roasted carrots

Bronya, sorry, you cannot do these in a microwave.

You really need those big old carrots that have gone a bit woody. Top and tail them then slice them lengthways in half. Sprinkle the cut surfaces with salt, and leave things for a couple of minutes. Rinse the salt off, and dry the carrots well in a teatowel. Preferably a clean one, but you don’t need to be too finicky.

Preheat your oven to 190 Celsius.

Put a generous measure of olive oil in a roasting tin, and arrange the carrots cut side up. Drizzle some more oil over the cut surfaces.

Here’s a big surprise. Put the roasting tin in the oven. Wow! Roasted carrots done in the oven! Who would ever have thought it?

Just let them get on with it, checking occasionally with a fork till they’re cooked as you like them, though in an ideal world they should brown off on top. If they start to stick, move them very gently around with a spatula, or they may just burn, though to be frank this isn’t a major disaster. They still taste good.

Carrot, onion, and date salad

This is a bit fiddly, but if you’ve got some time on your hands it’s worth a shot.

Use purple carrots if you can; it looks really pretty. They’re not easy to find, and I can tell you from bitter experience they are a bit of a bugger to grow.

Slice the carrots thinly lengthways with a mandolin if you’re dead posh, or a vegetable peeler if you’re a pleb like me. Stack the slices on a chopping board, and cut them again lengthways to give fine batons, but not as if you’ve grated them.

Peel and grate a small onion; you may need a gasmask for this if you’re a bit of a wimp.

Stone and finely chop some dates.

Mix everything up, and splosh a tablespoon of lime juice in. Plenty of black pepper.

Rock and roll doesn’t get much better.

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