As mentioned in my earlier post about the french beans with almonds, I’m going through a phase of ‘messing about with my vegetables’, finding new ways to cook and prepare that don’t bring anything disagreeably unhealthy into the equation. Roughly translated, this means no lashings of saturated fat heavy butter (well not every day anyway!) and not too much salt. Most of the time it also entails cooking methods that maintain the vitamin content of the vegetables as much as possible, so the methods that don’t use too much water to and which do involve quick cooking (stir fry, steam, microwave). This week’s experiment has been baby carrots, sort of steamed and coated in a sweet, sticky plum and honey glaze (secretly sneaking in extra fresh fruit without adding any salt or fat).
My shock discovery of the week has been about the baby carrots of America. You guys can’t get enough of these carrots apparently, so much so there is a roaring trade in taking full size grown-up carrots and whittling them down into faux baby carrots! My first reaction to this was outrage (surely this has be an incredible waste of natural resources?) but in fact these carrots are a clever solution to consumer fickleness. Piles of misshapen, knobbly carrots that nobody wants to buy are magically twirled into standard 2-inch babies in a process that was the brain-child of Californian Mike Yurosek. Mike developed his process because he was fed up with watching all the wastage from the carrot business, seemingly a great example of a sustainable business idea. In a strange twist, demand for the baby carrots has been so massive that business is no longer a niche charged with using up an industrial by-product; carrots are now being grown in long, thin shapes better suited for turning in to several ‘babies’ apiece. I really don’t know where the baby carrot industry stands now in sustainable terms (possibly not so good any more?) but from a nutritional point of view you have to be pragamatic and conclude that anything that persuades people to use vegetables as a snack is probably positive.
There is one thing I am sure about – those fake baby carrots can’t taste anything like a real, fresh from the ground, naturally cute ‘n stumpy baby carrot! You can see from the picture that my carrots arrived reassuringly caked with mud and mishapen and so I’m fairly sure they are the real deal. The plum and chilli sauce gives this an almost oriental sweet and sour feel but the carrots themselves remain uncontrovertibly earthy and english. We had ours with pan fried Irish trout and noodles tossed with raw pak choi and sesame oil but I think these carrots would be equally at home at the side of a roast dinner. Trout is an oily fish (containing a good measure of omega 3 polyunsaturated fatty acids) and is ideal for a quick supper, cooking almost instantly in its filleted form. This particular trout was a mini adventure in itself as my other half did the shopping and bought home one whole trout for us to share (I’ve only ever bought trout ready filleted before – I know, such a sheltered life!). Funnily enough he hadn’t really thought ahead to how he was going to get the trout into shareable form. Anyway, a bit of googling of ‘trout filleting’ and I was soon getting my knife dirty and fingers slimy rather cackhandedly cutting off the two fillets. The end result was a bit untidy around the edges but tasty and I think somewhat underrated at only £2.50 for an organic trout to feed two.
Recipe for Baby carrots with plums and chilli
Serves 2 or 3
2 handfuls of baby carrots, washed and trimmed of greenery (no need to peel)
4 plums, stoned and quartered
1 dessertspoon runny honey
a pinch of chilli flakes
Freshly ground black pepper
Place the carrots in a shallow pan and add about 75ml of hot water (a good splosh). Cover with a lid and cook over a medium heat for about 10 minutes allowing the carrots to steam in the water.
Add the plums, honey and chilli flakes, replace the lid and cook for another 10 minutes or until the carrots are cooked through. The plums will disintegrate, creating a sticky sauce for the carrots. If there is too much liquid remove the lid for the last couple of minutes; too little then add a splash more.
Finish off with freshly ground black pepper.