How many uses can you find for a bunch of carrots?

Throw a bunch in your basket this weekend, and here are some suggestions to turn them into soups, salad, risotto and cakes

Carrots are a most versatile root, good in everything from soups to cakes. Photograph: Getty Images

Carrots are a most versatile root, good in everything from soups to cakes. Photograph: Getty Images

 

Could there be a more versatile root than the humble carrot? From soups to salads, juices to cakes, the carrot just keeps on giving.

Originally grown for their leaves and seeds, it is the plant’s taproot that is now prized – though the leaves, if you can source carrots with them still attached, can be made into a very tasty pesto.

Darina Allen, never one to waste a thing, first drew my attention to this. Make it in the same way you would basil pesto, blitzing the leaves with garlic, salt, pine nuts (or other nuts), Parmesan and olive or rapeseed oil.

Carrot soup is a fine thing, but it is a better, more multi-dimensional thing when you bring other ingredients to the party. Spices such as cumin, coriander and ginger balance carrot’s natural sweetness, and carrot and orange are best friends when it comes to the soup pot, the citrus fruit adding welcome acidity.

Lilly Higgins goes for the aniseedy pop of star anise in her carrot soup, and adds cream for a touch of luxury. Delia Smith opts for coriander seeds and recommends using spring carrots in her soup, saying they are less sweet than their summer counterparts.

Said to have originated in Persia, carrots are a staple in many Middle Eastern salads. Cook book author Sabrina Ghayour shared her recipe forcarrot, tahini and roasted hazelnut salad with mint with us to celebrate the publication of her second book, Sirocco: Fabulous Flavours from the East. Her fourth, Bazaar: Fresh, Flavourful & Deeply Satisfying Vegetarian Recipes for Every Occasion, is all about vegetables, and will be published on April 4th (which, incidentally, is international carrot day).

Béatrice Peltre, food stylist and writer
Béatrice Peltre, food stylist and writer

All too often carrots play second fiddle to other things on the dinner plate, but Béatrice Peltre, a French-born, Boston-based food writer, photographer and stylist celebrates them in all their glory in her recipe for carrot risotto with saffron, scallops and pistachios. This is a dinner party-worthy showstopper, however the recipe can be simplified by omitting the scallops. But would you want to?

Peltre, whose husband Philip is Irish, is running a five-day food styling and photography retreat on the islands of Paros and Anti Paros in the Greek Cyclades in June along with Irish food writer and photographer Cliodhna Prendergast of Lens & Larder, and Saffron Gatherers. Details here.

Finally, where would cake be without carrots? Vanessa Greenwood describes her version of carrot cake as “guilt-free” and we’re all for that approach. Lilly Higgins has her own version too, which she says is “packed full of goodness.”

LILLY HIGGINS’S CARROT AND STAR ANISE SOUP

Serves 6

Ingredients

50g butter
2 onions, chopped
6 sprigs thyme
4 whole star anise
2 cloves garlic
850g carrots, peeled and chopped
80ml hot stock
100ml cream
Sea salt & black pepper

Method

Melt the butter in a heavy based pan over a medium heat. Add the onions and sauté for 5-10 minutes, until soft.

Add the thyme, star anise and garlic. Stir for 2 minutes, ensuring the garlic doesn’t burn.

Add the carrots and hot stock. Simmer for 20-25 minutes until the carrots are tender.

Remove the thyme sprigs and star anise. Purée the soup till smooth. Stir through the cream and season with salt and pepper to taste.

SABRINA GHAYOUR’S CARROT, TAHINI AND ROASTED HAZELNUT SALAD WITH MINT

Serves: 4

Ingredients

500g carrots, peeled and thinly sliced diagonally
1 large red onion, halved and thinly sliced into half moons
100g toasted hazelnuts, roughly halved or chopped
40g mint, leaves finely chopped

For the dressing:
2 tbsp tahini
4 tbsp olive oil
Finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
2 tbsp cold water
Sea salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper

Method

I love salads with ample crunch, texture and dimension, and this delicious dish hits all these notes. It’s a great year-round salad, but also works really well as a slaw, of sorts, jammed into a sandwich with any type of leftover meat. The final touch of mint gives the dish the perfect hint of freshness to offset the rich nutty tahini and sweet crunch of carrots.

Put the carrots, red onion, hazelnuts and mint in a bowl and mix well. To make the dressing, put the tahini, olive oil, lemon zest and juice and the two tablespoons of water (which is added to slacken the mixture) in a small bowl and stir well. Season generously with salt and pepper. Pour over the salad, tossing it through to coat the vegetables well. Serve immediately.

BÉATRICE PELTRE’S SAFFRON CARROT RISOTTO WITH SCALLOPS AND PISTACHIOS

Serves: 4

Ingredients

600g carrots
5 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp unsalted butter
2 thyme sprigs
175ml unsweetened coconut milk
1.3 litres chicken stock
3/4 tsp saffron threads
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 leek, white part only, finely chopped
300g arborio rice or carnaroli rice
120ml dry white wine or white vermouth
60g finely grated Parmesan or pecorino cheese, plus more for garnish
Sea salt and pepper
340g scallops
1 1/2 tbsp shelled unsalted green pistachios, finely chopped
1 tbsp finely chopped parsley
Pistachio oil, to serve
Micro greens, to serve

Method

Peel the carrots and pulse them in the bowl of a food processor until they are finely chopped; set aside.

In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, heat two tablespoons olive oil with one tablespoon of butter over medium heat. Add the carrots and thyme, and cook for three minutes. Add 60ml coconut milk, 60ml chicken stock, and a quarter teaspoon saffron; cook for five minutes, stirring occasionally, until the carrots are soft. Remove from the heat, discard the thyme, and reserve 80ml of the carrot preparation. Transfer the rest to the bowl of a food processor with 60ml of chicken stock, and purée until smooth; set aside.

Heat the rest of the stock in a pot with half a teaspoon saffron; keep warm.

In a large pot, heat two tablespoons olive oil with one tablespoon butter. Add the shallot and leek. Sauté for four minutes, without browning, until soft. Add the rice and stir for a minute to coat. Add the white wine and cook, stirring constantly, until all the liquid is absorbed. Add the warm stock, one cup (236 ml) at a time, stirring constantly and waiting until each cup is absorbed before adding more. When you add the last cup of broth, also add the puréed carrots. Once most of the liquid is absorbed, check the rice to see whether you need more broth – the rice should stay slightly al dente. Stir in the parmesan cheese and the rest of the coconut milk. Season with sea salt and pepper, to taste. Cover and remove from the heat.

In a sauté pan, heat one tablespoon olive oil over medium heat. Add the scallops and cook for one minute on each side. Season with sea salt and pepper.

Serve the carrot risotto in bowls. Top with the sautéed scallops and reserved carrots. Garnish with the pistachios, chopped parsley, and a little more shaved Parmesan; drizzle with pistachio oil. Top with micro greens, if using, and serve immediately.

Recipe and images from My French Family Table by Beatrice Peltre. Reprinted by arrangement with Roost Books

VANESSA GREENWOOD’S HEALTHY CARROT CAKE

Serves: 8

Ingredients

75g dark muscovado sugar (or caster sugar)
2 eggs
½ tsp vanilla essence
100g very ripe bananas (approx 2 bananas), mashed
75ml sunflower oil
100g plain flour
50g wholemeal flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp bread soda
Pinch salt
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp mixed spice
200g carrots, coarsely grated (approx 2 medium carrots)
25g porridge oats
1½ tbsp desiccated coconut
25g walnuts, chopped
25g sultanas

Cream cheese icing
125g full-fat cream cheese
30g butter
Zest of ½ lemon and a squeeze of lemon juice
100g icing sugar

Method

1. Line a 2lb loaf tin with baking parchment and preheat a fan oven to 200°C.

2. In a mixing bowl, whisk the sugar, eggs and vanilla essence together, add the bananas. Whisk in the oil until well combined.

3. Sieve together the flours, baking powder, bread soda, salt and spices.

4. Fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Next fold in the carrots, oats, coconut, walnuts and sultanas until fully combined.

5. Pour the mixture into the loaf tin, level the top and bake in the preheated oven for 10mins at 200°C until risen and starting to darken in colour, then reduce the oven temperature to 180°C for the remaining 50 mins or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. Allow to cool slightly in the tin, then remove and cool completely on a wire rack before icing.

6. For the cream cheese icing, use an electric whisk to beat the butter until soft, add the cream cheese, lemon zest and a squeeze of lemon juice. Add icing sugar gradually, beating after each addition until blended. Ensure the loaf cake is cool before spreading the icing over the top.

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