International Carrot Day

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Bet you didn’t know there was such a thing as an International Carrot Day, well indeed there is. It is celebrated every year on April 4th, the day when virtues of the carrot are highlighted through Carrot Parties and Carrot related festivities around the world.
I’m completely baffled as to why this date was chosen considering most gardeners haven’t even sown the seed yet. We got our early crop into the soil in the greenhouse at the end of February but they are only just above the ground now.

Nonetheless, there are lots of fat crunchy carrots still around in the shops and greengrocers. They were piled high on Joseph Burns’ stall in the Midleton Farmers Market last Saturday, side by side with parsnips, freshly dug and still covered in earth. That’s the way I like to buy them, they keep better, taste better and ultimately I suppose have even more nutrients because the skin is not damaged in any way by washing.

Carrots are one of our four basic vegetables alongside onions, cabbage and potatoes. We pretty much take them for granted but let’s focus for a minute or two on their many attributes. They are a powerhouse of nutrients, can be eaten raw, they store for months and will keep for several weeks even in a home fridge. They are immensely versatile in the kitchen.

Carrots are one of the few vegetables that virtually every child will eat. In fact one of my grandchildren ate almost nothing but raw carrots for months on end when he was about 3. We had to save the end of a row of carrots in the garden to feed the ‘carrot-monster’ habit.

When children for local schools come to visit the farm and vegetable gardens during the seasons. We encourage them to pull a carrot from the ground, wash it under the tap in the greenhouse and then they munch it with relish. Many, in fact I would say most, have never seen a carrot growing; they presume they come already washed in a plastic bag from the supermarket. It’s a similar story for most other foods, milk, meat and some are disgusted by the thought of them coming from the ground and from an animal, such is the paranoia around hygiene and food safety. How scary is that….there’s a serious piece of education to be done and urgently. Carrots are a rich source of both alpha and beta carotene and also goodly amounts of Vitamin K and B6 and dietary fibre. They’ve also been associated with eye health but their impact on our night vision may be overestimated. Nonetheless they are super nutritious and because of their sweetness the cook can have fun using them in many sweet as well as savoury dishes. The tender young leaves can be used in carrot pesto or dipped in a batter and deep fried. Carrots were originally grown for their leaves and flowers. Wild carrots are thought to have originated in Central Asia, Persia (now part of Iran and Afghanistan).

They were bred selectively over the centuries to reduce the bitterness, increase sweetness and minimise the woody core and now we have carrots of many colours, red, white, yellow, purple, black and of course orange. There are sometimes long and tapered or more squat depending on the variety. Carrots are amazingly inexpensive considering they take an average of three months to grow from seed. We all know they are super versatile, include them in chunky or creamy soups, tagines, stews, as a vegetable, roast them. Boil them, grate them for salads, add to a carrot cake, transform them into carrot spaghetti with a spirlizer. Make carrot crisps, or make a surprisingly delicious jam or chutney and then there’s carrot juice….I love fresh carrot juice, maybe add some apple, a little ginger and a few leaves of fresh mint!

We’ve also been getting lots of compliments when we add carrot juice to a risotto – here’s the recipe we use plus some other favourite ways to enjoy this under appreciated vegetable and now how about a Carrot Party….

Hot Tips
Bunsen
The super popular Bunsen restaurant on Wexford Street and Temple Bar in Dublin has come to Cork – Tom Gleeson, past 12 Week graduate has recently opened his award winning ‘burger joint’ on 4 French Church Street in Cork. Check it out.
Tel: 021 239 0660 http://www.bunsen.ie/

Cheese Lovers Time to Celebrate
The National Dairy Council recently announced a new recipe competition to celebrate cheese. Create an original recipe using cheese as the main ingredient. Two categories to choose from:- Passionate Cooks and Foodies – A delicious, healthy and nutritious family style recipe that you might cook mid-week.
Trainee Chefs/Culinary Students – A special occasion recipe that you might cook for a dinner party or celebratory occasion.
The judges for the competition include Irish Chef Clodagh McKenna, Irish Olympian and food author Derval O’Rourke and Vanessa Greenwood of Cooks Academy in Dublin. http://www.ndc.ie for details on how to enter

Carrot Halva

Serves 4

1 lb (450 g) carrots
1¼ pints (700 ml) milk
8 whole cardamom pods
5 tablespoons vegetable oil or ghee
5 tablespoons caster sugar
1-2 tablespoons sultanas
1 tablespoon shelled, unsalted pistachios, lightly crushed
10 fl ozs (275 ml) cream, optional

Peel the carrots and grate them either by hand or in a food processor. Put the grated carrots, milk, and cardamom pods in a heavy bottomed pot and bring to a boil. Turn heat to medium and cook, stirring now and then, until there is no liquid left. Adjust the heat, if you need to. This boiling down of milk will take at least half an hour or longer, depending on the width of the pot.
Heat the oil in a non-stick frying pan over a medium-low heat. When hot, put in the carrot mixture. Stir and fry until the carrots no longer have a wet, milky look. They should turn a rich, reddish colour. This can take 10-15 minutes.
Add the sugar, sultanas and pistachios. Stir and fry for another 2 minutes.
This halva may be served warm or at room temperature. Serve the cream on the side.

 

A Carrot Risotto

Serves 4-6
This is super delicious, made with fresh carrot juice, you really have to try it, my grandchildren love it too. This risotto is soo good. We love it on its own or with a pan-grilled lamb chop and rocket salad.

425ml (15fl.oz) home made chicken stock
225ml (8fl.oz) fresh carrot juice, (4 medium carrots, weighing approx.. 400g/14oz)
25g (1oz) butter
50g (2oz) onion, finely chopped
1 teaspoon sea salt and freshly ground pepper
200g (7oz) Basmati rice
50ml (2fl.oz) dry white wine

50g (2oz) finely grated Parmesan or Coolea cheese
2-4 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped

Put the chicken stock, carrot juice and 450ml (16fl.oz) water in a saucepan, bring to the boil and simmer over a low heat. Meanwhile, melt half the butter in a saucepan over a medium heat, add the chopped onion, cook gently until soft but not coloured, about 5 minutes. Season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper.
Increase the heat, add the rice and stir until all the grains are coated and translucent, 2-3 minutes. Add the wine, stir and cook until absorbed, about 2 minutes.
Add 125ml (4fl.oz) hot liquid, stir until most of the liquid is absorbed. Continue adding broth, a small ladle at a time till it is all incorporated and the rice is tender and still a tiny bit al dente, 25-30 minutes. Stir in remaining 10g (½oz) butter and half the Parmesan. Taste, correct the seasoning, sprinkle with chopped parsley and freshly grated Parmesan and serve immediately.

Moroccan Carrot Salad

In the Fez and Meknes area many meals start with an array of little ‘salads’, not greens doused in French Dressing but little dishes of spiced or sweetened raw or cooked vegetables to tempt the palate before the tagine arrives.

Serves 6-8

6 large carrots, scraped and grated
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 – 1 teaspoon of orange blossom water
pinch of salt

Mix the carrots with the sugar, lemon juice, orange-blossom water, and salt. Marinate 1 hour before serving. Taste and correct seasoning. Eat with Moroccan bread.

Julia Wight’s Carrot Cake

This recipe for carrot cake, by far the best one I know and was given to me by a dear friend. It keeps for ages.

7oz (200g) fine wholemeal or spelt flour
3 level teaspoons mixed spice
1 level teaspoon bread soda
3oz (75g) soft brown sugar
2 large eggs, preferably free range
1/4 pint (150 ml) sunflower oil
grated rind of 1 orange
7oz (200g) grated carrot
4oz (110g) sultanas
2oz (50g) dessicated coconut
2oz (50g walnuts, chopped

Cream Cheese Icing (see recipe)
or

Glaze
juice of 1 small orange
1 tablespoon lemon juice
3oz (75g) soft brown sugar

Decoration (optional)
toasted flaked almonds or pumpkin seeds (crystallized – optional)

Loaf tin 9 inch (23 cm) x 5 inch (12.5 cm) x 2 inch (5 cm) lined with silicone paper

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4.

Put the flour, spice and breadsoda into a bowl and mix well. Whisk the eggs with the sugar and oil in another bowl until smooth. Stir in the dry ingredients, add the orange rind, grated carrot, sultanas, coconut and walnuts. Pour into the lined tin. Bake in a preheated oven for 1 hour and 20 minutes until well risen and firm to the touch. Meanwhile make the glaze. Mix the sugar with the orange and lemon juice in a bowl. While the cake is still warm prick the top with a skewer, pour the glaze over the cake and leave in the tin to cool.

This cake can also be made in a round tin (7x 3inch/17.5 x 7.5cm deep) which needs to be lined and will only take 1hour in the oven.

Note: When this cake is made in a round tin, the cream cheese icing is very effective and is a very tasty finish.

Cream Cheese Icing

Do twice the icing to coat a round carrot cake.

3oz (75g) cream cheese
1 1/2oz (45g) icing sugar
1 1/2oz (45g) butter
grated rind on 1/2 orange

Mix all the ingredients together and spread over the top of the carrot cake. Sprinkle with toasted flaked almonds or pumpkin seeds, crystallized if you fancy.

Carrot Crisps

You can make vegetable crisps from a variety of different vegetables: parsley, celeriac, beetroot, Jerusalem artichokes and potatoes of course. But you need to be careful with the ones that are very high in sugar, because they need to be cooked at a lower temperature, otherwise they’ll be dark and bitter. Serves about 8

a few raw carrots, small to medium-sized
oil in a deep-fat fryer
salt

Use a vegetable peeler to peel the carrot. Then slice on a mandolin into paper-thin slices. Leave them to dry out on kitchen paper (this may take several hours). You want them to be dry, otherwise they’ll end up being soggy when you cook them.
Heat the oil in a deep-fat fryer to 140ºC (275ºF) and cook slowly, a few at a time. Drain on kitchen paper and sprinkle with salt.

Gajar ka Halwa

Maunika Gowardhan’ Carrot Pudding with Cardamom, Pistachios and Raisin

Serves 4

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1kg (2 1/4lb) peeled and coarsely grated carrots
300ml (10fl oz) whole milk
200ml (7fl oz) sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon cardamom powder
handful of raisins
roughly chopped pistachios to garnish

To Serve
vanilla ice-cream

In a heavy bottom non-stick pan heat the butter and add grated carrots. Cook over medium heat and sauté till they have softened slightly and have changed in colour to a bright orange for about 30 mins or so, stirring continuously.

Add whole milk to the pan and reduce the heat to low cooking till the milk has dried out which will take about 15 minutes. Stir the pan well to avoid the mix from sticking or burning.

Add the condensed milk and cardamom powder. Stir through getting all the carrots to coat the condensed milk cooking on a low heat for 20 minutes. Add the raisins and some of the pistachio. The heat of the pudding will also puff up the raisins making them taste even better.

The consistency should be thick, making sure all the moisture has evaporated and the carrots have softened. Serve warm garnished with remaining pistachios alongside some ice cream.
Copyright Maunika Gowardhan

Angels Hair (Carrot Jam)

A blob of this carrot jam makes a super delicious starter with goat cheese, mozzarella and a few fresh rocket leaves.

600g (1 1/4lbs) carrots
500g (18oz/2 1/4 cups) caster sugar
zest of 2 large lemon, cut into strips
freshly squeezed juice of 2 large lemon
6 cardamom pods, split

Trim and scrape the carrots. Grate on a medium sized grater. Put into a pan with the sugar, lemon zest and juice and the cardamom pods. Heat gently until the sugar dissolves, then boil hard until the mixture is very thick.

Place into a warmed, sterilised jar and seal tightly.

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Darina Allen
By Darina Allen

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