It’s Not Easy Being a Carrot.

It seems that carrots receive a lot of bad press. The most common expression featuring the humble carrot involves reward and punishment, ‘the carrot and the stick”, an enduring approach to behaviour modification and a recurring political weapon. Any one for tax cuts? A quick search through my cookbooks, especially those with listings by ingredient, revealed very short chapters devoted to carrots. Italian cookbooks ignore them as a principal ingredient: Asian books only make passing reference to them. I do use them but they rarely star. Like Italian nonne, I finely chop carrots to form part of the trio in a soffritto, that little tasty stir fry of tiny chopped ingredients that is the foundation of a good soup. I throw chunks  of carrot into a slowly cooked root stew and I grate them into a cake. And then…not much else. My carrot repertoire is small. I don’t fancy them in fritters, nor as sticks ( a case of neither carrot nor stick changing my wicked ways ) when other candidates do a better job.

New carrots, vincotto, pine nuts, currants, chevre
New carrots, vincotto, pine nuts, currants, chevre

Maybe we have forgotten the taste of freshly pulled carrots? The trend, here in Australia, is to pack carrots, devoid of their fine greenery, into plastic bags where they probably linger for months in a chilled warehouse before reaching the consumer. They taste like mould. Some go into the soup, the rest end up in the compost heap.

Freshly pulled carrots, either home-grown or bought at a farmer’s market, need to be dealt with quickly before they wilt and lose their vibrancy. Since purchasing carrots from the Peninsula market gardens, I have been keen to trial recipes where carrots star. My favourite to date is a ginger and carrot pureed soup with coriander pesto. It went down so quickly with the troupes at the beach. No time for a photo.

Carrots star when just picked
Carrots star when just picked

This recipe from Maggie’s Kitchen makes a colourful side dish to go with a baked fish or a roasted chicken. Where Maggie uses verjuice in her recipe, I substituted Vincotto. The saucing is wonderful in this dish. You could easily leave out the currants and pine nuts for a simpler version.

Carrots in Verjuice with Goat’s Cheese and Pine Nuts.

  • 1/4 cup dried currants
  • 1/3 cup verjuice
  • 1 bunch baby ( Dutch) carrots, green tops trimmed to about 2 cm, scrubbed
  • sea salt
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 100 g unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
  • 1/2 cup marinated goats cheese, or fresh goats cheese, or chevre

Place currants and verjuice in a small bowl and leave to plump.

Cook carrots in a saucepan of boiling water until almost cooked. Leave carrots to cool a little then use a clean towel to rub skins off while still warm. Set peeled carrots aside to cool, then halve lengthways.

Drain currants, reserve verjuice.

Toast pine nuts in a frying pan over low heat until light brown. Transfer to a bowl, then add butter to the same pan and melt over medium heat to high, then cook for 2-3 minutes or until butter turns nut brown. Add reserved verjuice and cook until reduced and syrupy. Add currants, pine nuts and parsley, then transfer to a serving dish. Top with chevre or spoon over goat’s curd and serve at once.

Magggie Beer, Maggies Kitchen, Penguin Lantern, 2008

An update on the supermarket warehousing of carrots from the Guardian.  This explains that mouldy taste.

Carrot

Typical storage time 1 to 9 months

Immediate washing and cooling are essential to maintain the carrots’ crispness. Often, they are cooled in chlorinated water before packing.

Storage just above 0C inhibits sprouting and decay, while raised humidity prevents desiccation.

In these conditions, mature topped carrots will last 7-9 months, though 5-6 months is more typical.

 

49 thoughts on “It’s Not Easy Being a Carrot.”

  1. No bad press in our family! We love carrots. Sticks dipped in Kewpie mao simply delicious. Grated in a salad sandwich beautiful and even better with cheese in a Jaffle. I like it sauteed in olive oil and garlic. Very nice in Chinese food. Of course there’s carrot soup and carrot cake. People need to learn the many uses of carrot. Maybe they’re suffering poor eyesight …hahaha

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      1. Certainly me. Another interesting observation is carrots are “dirt cheap” and have been for a long time. People cannot use the excuse “too expensive”

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    1. Yes, I did make mention of carrot soup and carrot cake in the text. Carrots are also nice as part of a dish. I rarely use them as a ‘lone star’. I hate carrot sticks and rather prefer celery but then, it’s maybe because supermarket carrots taste like wood dipped in mould.

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    1. I prefaced the ingredient list with a mention of Vincotto as I substituted this for the verjuice. It is sweeter than verjuice. Quote from wiki ” Vincotto (translated as “cooked wine”) or sapa is a dark, sweet dense condiment produced artisanally in the Puglia/Apulia and Marche regions of Italy. It is made by the slow cooking and reduction over many hours of non-fermented grape must until it has been reduced to about one-fifth of its original volume and the sugars present have caramelized. It can be made from a number of varieties of local red wine grapes including Primitivo, Negroamaro and Malvasia Nera, collected after being allowed to wither naturally on the vine for about 30 days.”
      I am very fond of it as a condiment.

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  2. I like carrots, even carrot sticks. Recently I’ve developed a recipe of my own where zucchini and carrots share equal billing in a stir fry. Will have to do a blog post about it as I think you would enjoy it. I’m sure it would be even better with the lovely fresh carrots you showed in the photo of your last post.

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  3. My favorite cooked carrot recipe is derived from Claudia Roden, roughly mashed or pureed if you prefer with garlic, lemon juice and ground cumin. I think it’s a good rule of thumb never to buy anything packaged in a plastic bag….

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    1. Yes, I agree- not only with the problem of plastic, but also the washing of its contents in bleach and the long storage of these items in warehouses. Some of the loose stuff in vegetable shops comes from the same source- woody and a bit old tasting. We can’t always get the freshly pulled numbers, but when we do, they are so much nicer.
      The Roden recipe sounds excellent- cumin always gives things a real lift.

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  4. Fortunately I never buy vegetables at the supermarket, or in a plastic bag. This sounds wonderful, I can’t wait to try it. I would replace the goat’s cheese with fresh ricotta (I am in Italy where I can get some delicious freshly made ricotta) as I am one of the few people who can’t stand goat cheese.

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    1. I understand your goat cheese aversion: I have a few friends with a similar issue. Marinated fetta would go well too, as would the fresh ricotta you mention, or some torn buffalo mozzarella ( heavenly) or some bits of taleggio….even better. As you can tell, it’s dinner time here and I wish a cooking fairy would drop by.

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  5. Farmers market carrots baked are a favourite, so this treatment would make a lovely dressed up variation. But like you say we tend to eat them in things rather than making them the star. They’ve been a summer constant in the crisper as coleslaw and garden salsa have been simple go-to’s this summer.

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  6. Nice to know supermarket carrots are bathed in chlorinated water and stored for 9months! Not. I wonder if in 100 years people will look back and wonder what we were doing to ourselves. I expect not. But you’re right – they are a bit forgotten aren’t they. Always the bridesmaid never the bride.

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  7. Chuckleworthy opening paragraph! Poor carrots. I love farmer markets ‘hairyloom’ bunches roasted or steamed and tossed in all manner of condiments. And your goats cheese and carrots, oh yes! They form the base of many of my family meals but never purchased in bags. Bloody supermarkets.

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  8. Hey Francesca .. How are you? I love growing carrots .. They don’t always germinate or I’ve had to share them with the wildlife .. But they taste divine. Love juicing them too .. The chooks don’t mind them grated either. Shame they are so underrated .. Ah Vincotto a great alternative 😀

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  9. I happen to enjoy carrots and prepare them regularly. I’ll be sure to give our method a try, Francesca. Thanks, too, for the info about “fresh” carrots. I definitely need to be more observant when I buy them.

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  10. There has been a huge explosion (so to speak) of carrot consumption here in the USA because of the mini-carrot craze…regular carrots machine cut into smaller bite-sized pieces. Do you have them in Oz as well? I love the recipe here. Are you going to share the carrot soup recipe too?

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