There is always some vegetable that even the most hard-core vegetable lover dislikes. I count myself as a hard-core vegetable lover: I can rant for hours about the secret pleasures of artichokes or the juicy consistency of asparagus. I eat vegetables because they are good-for-you, sure, but mainly I eat them because I want to eat them. I want to cook with them. Whenever I go to the market, I have to stop myself from buying too much. I am a compulsive vegetable shopper, I admit it, and nothing excites me more than a good-looking (and better tasting!) fruit and veggies stall. My vegetable love has always been one of the distinctive tract of my personality: my sister is the one who eats only meat, I am the one who eats only vegs. We are a team, when it comes to eating.
However there are some vegetables I don’t like. Not that I don’t eat them, mind you, but.. I just don’t buy them, or if I do, they linger in my fridge for a while and then die. Boring food, I have no room for you in my kitchen. But I don’t like this attitude of mine. I strongly believe there is something good in every situation, even the most difficult one, and I strongly believe that for every vegetable there must be a recipe I really like. I already knew carrots was one of these vegetables. I never cared much about it when raw, and I always actively disliked it when cooked. Boiled carrots, puah! In front of boiled carrots I am a stubborn five years old who won’t eat his veggies, no matter what.
A while ago while on holiday in Calabria, I was served a small side dish of freshly harvested and grated carrots, fresh and juicy, served with a generous dressing of strong olive oil and a sprinkle of toasted sesame seeds. I fell in love with it, and from then on I prepare this side regularly. I do find good carrots here. And what about cooked carrots? Thankfully, il signor Ottolenghi helped me again. I trusted his book ‘Plenty‘ enough to try the only all-carrot recipe there. You’ll be glad you did as well, no matter if you like carrots or are tepid about them. Spicy, hot, juicy, tangy, with this recipe you won’t stop after a few bites, bored to death, I promise. Ottolenghi invites you to play around with the spices. I followed his quite faithfully, adjusting the quantities to my taste. If you need to convert between whole and ground spices, Claire recently experimented on this one, and I found it very useful.
Spicy Moroccan carrot salad
Adapted from Plenty
Ingredients: (makes a generous side for two)
500 gr carrots
1 small onion
2 thai red chillies
1 crushed garlic clove
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp sweet paprika
1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1/2 tablespoon chopped preserved lemon skin
salt and pepper
3 tablespoon chopped coriander
optional: some thick yogurt, to serve
Wash and peel the carrots. Cut them into regular shaped sticks, about 8 cm long and 2 cm thick. Steam them until they are cooked, but still retain some bite: I used my pressure cooker and steamed them for about 10 minutes.
Chop the onion. Heat about a tablespoon of olive oil in a non stick pan, and saute the onion until translucent and slightly brown. Meanwhile chop the chillies, grate the ginger, and grind coriander, cumin and cloves. Add the carrots to the onion, the garlic, chillies ginger, ground spices, paprika, cinnamon, sugar, white vinegar, preserved lemon skin. Stir well to allow the flavours to mix and take off from the heat. Season generously. When the carrots are room temperature, stir in the coriander. Serve at room temperature, with some yogurt on top if you like. Great in lunch boxes.