Carrots are more highly bred than our royal family. Through 500 years of intensive selection, the Dutch have selected out all the freaks so that what we have left are fast-growing, uniform, bland-tasting roots with ‘robust handling characteristics’, meaning that you can drop them out of an aeroplane without them breaking – crucial for mechanical harvesting, grading, washing and packing. I once visited a carrot variety trial and throughout the day I never saw anyone taste a carrot or even mention flavour. We try hard to do better and customers often cite the flavour of our carrots as a reason to recommend us. Here’s how to make the most of them!
roast carrots with honey and fennel
serves 4 as a side
Roasting the carrots intensifies their flavour and really makes a stand-up side dish.
Heat the oven to 200°C/Gas 6. Cut the carrots into long wedges or roll-cut them into angular pieces. If they are small and slender, leave them whole or cut them in half lengthways. Toss with the oil, fennel seeds, honey and salt. Spread the carrots in a single layer over a roasting pan lined with baking paper. Roast for around 30 minutes until cooked through and caramelising in places – check after 20 minutes and turn over to ensure even roasting. Serve hot or warm.
carrots in a bag
This nifty technique seals in the flavour and lets the veg cook in its own moisture. It also brings a nice bit of theatre to the Christmas dinner table! You’ll need baking parchment and a stapler.
Heat the oven to 180°C/Gas 4.To make the bag, spread out a rectangle of baking parchment, approximately 60 x 30cm, with the longer side towards you. Fold it in half from left to right. Double-fold the top and bottom ends and staple the folds closed with two staples. Using a pestle and mortar, bash the rosemary, bay leaf and garlic roughly (you can also do this using the back of a knife on a chopping board). Put the mixture into the bag with the butter. Put the carrots in a bowl, season well with salt and pepper and drizzle over enough of the olive oil so that the seasoning sticks to them. Tip into the bag. Double-fold the open edge of the bag and staple in both corners and in the middle. Lay in a roasting tin and bake for about 25 minutes; the bag should puff up.
Turn out into a bowl or open at the table like a big bag of crisps. Watch out for the staples!
roasted carrot & chickpea salad with tahini dressing
serves 4, prep: 15 mins, cook: 40 mins
You can also make this with cubes of squash, sweet potato or other roots.
600g carrots, peeled & cut into large chunks
2 tbsp olive oil
½ tsp dried chilli flakes
1 tsp cumin seeds
½ tsp ground coriander
¼ tsp smoked paprika
1 tbsp clear honey
100g mixed salad leaves
400g tin chickpeas, rinsed & drained
for the dressing:
2 tbsp light tahini
2 tbsp plain yoghurt
1 garlic clove, crushed
2 tbsp olive oil
juice of 1 lemon
Preheat the oven to 200°C. Toss the carrots in a baking dish with the oil, chilli, cumin, coriander and paprika. Season with salt and pepper. Roast for 30-40 mins, until tender. Remove from the oven and toss in the chickpeas, coating them with the spices. Leave to cool slightly. Scatter the salad, chickpeas and carrots over a large serving plate. Make the dressing: stir the tahini with the yoghurt until you have a smooth paste. Whisk in the rest of the ingredients with a few tbsp water, just enough so the dressing has the consistency of pouring cream. Drizzle over the salad.
beetroot, carrot & alfalfa salad
serves 2, prep 15 mins, cook 0 mins
for the dressing:
1 tsp honey
1 tbsp freshly squeezed orange juice
1 tsp finely grated ginger
4 tbsp good olive oil
Make the dressing by mixing all the ingredients together and seasoning with salt and pepper. Very thinly slice the beetroot and carrot, then cut into matchsticks. Arrange on a serving plate. Sprinkle over the alfalfa and toasted seeds. Drizzle over the dressing and crumble over a little of the cheese. Drizzle over a little extra olive oil to serve.
serves 4, prep 20 mins, cook 20 mins
1 tin chickpeas, drained & rinsed
700g carrots, peeled & diced
6 tbsp light tahini (sesame paste)
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
juice of 1-2 lemons, to taste
1 tsp ground cumin
¼ tsp paprika, plus extra for garnish
good olive oil
small handful toasted pine nuts or pumpkin seeds
Boil the carrots in salted water until tender (approx 10 mins, depending on size). Drain and cool. Place in a food processor and add the tahini, chickpeas, garlic, juice from 1 lemon, cumin and paprika. With the processor running, gradually trickle in enough olive oil to make a thick dipping consistency, to your liking. Add salt and more lemon juice to taste. Serve sprinkled with toasted pine nuts or pumpkin seeds, a little paprika and drizzle over a little good olive oil.
For more ideas for a Christmas rich in veg, download our seasonal booklet full of recipes and tips from our Riverford cooks and you, our customers. Available to download here: www.riverford.co.uk/christmas-veg.