Started in 2003, International carrot is celebrated on April 4, every year. The idea is to spread awareness on the goodness of the vegetable and highlight its benefits and potential in the kitchen. From a crunchy quick snack and a wholesome meal to a delicious dessert, carrots make way into every meal. It can be used in almost every cuisine and has several nutritional benefits too, reports Hindustan Times.With antioxidants that help damage control of cells in the body, carrots are also high in fibre that helps better digestion in the body. Ameya Mahajani, chef, Aromas Café, says, “A carrot eaten daily promotes healthy eyes. Carrots have proven to fight cancer and aid in healthy skin and hair.”
The numerous health benefits of this ingredient makes it a favourite among moms at home and chefs in the kitchen. Nitin Mongia, chef and founder, Kiki’s Pizza & More, adds, “Carrots help in weight loss and are said to help lower cholesterol levels and improve eye health.”
Manish Khanna, founder and partner, Brownie Point shares that they are a healthy source of better digestion, maintaining youthful age through great hair and skin and lowers the risk of developing diabetes.
Cooking carrots the right way
Overcooking any vegetable can affect its nutritional value and the same applies for carrots too. Having said that, cooking cannot be avoided altogether, what you can do instead is adapt the right way of cooking each ingredient.
Mahajani adds, “Dry cooking methods like grilling, butter roasting and sautéing are the best to retain maximum nutrients in carrots. If one prefers boiling carrots, then one should make sure to keep the boiling liquid aside and store it to be used in sauces and soups as the water is rich in nutrients and released while boiling the carrots.”Steaming is the best way to cook carrots as it enhances the flavour and allows for concentrated nutrient retention. Khanna says, “ Other ways are whenever in doubt microwave them, as it uses little or no water and can heat them quickly from inside, preserving nutrients. Also always saute and don’t fry, as frying can dehydrate and lose nutrients. Infact they work best for baking and roasting.”
Vicky Ratnani, culinary director, The Project Series, applies pointers such as never overcook carrot, cook them right; use minimal water while cooking carrot; roast them with pepper and virgin olive oil.
Carrot quirks (omit if overflowing)
Carrots are naturally high in sugars and a quirky, fun way to use them would be to highlight this aspect. Kelvin Cheung, chef, Bastian, says, “The idea is to use carrots in a manner which will accentuate and bring out the other natural flavours like vanilla and citrus. Instead of serving carrots as a side dish, make it the star of your meal.”
Cheung suggests, roast off a pile of carrots with some butter and spices and puree it, this spiced puree can then be used as a curry base which also adds great depth of flavour Another way to highlight the natural sweetness of carrots is by balancing it with the spice of chilies in a curry and acid from fresh limes. You may also try out dishes such as carrot and ginger sambhar, carrot and peanut butter or carrot pasta.
For desserts, one great way is to focus on using spices to bring out more of the carrot flavours. Warm spices like cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves are ideal ingredients to experiment with for carrot desserts. Cheung adds, “At Bastian brunch, we use one version of this technique by making a classic carrot cake containing double the amount of carrots with extra spices. Fresh ginger is also added to the mix for that extra kick and the batter is left to rest overnight. The classic Bastian French toast prepared for brunch the next day is paired with a spiced royale and served with spiced cream cheese frosting.”
Sheriyar Dotivala, executive chef , The Resort says, “One of the most favourite carrot desserts in India is Gajar ka Halwa. You can also try other desserts like Cinnamon Carrot Muffins that are a little low on calories and big on flavour. Try Atta Carrot cake where you can replace maida with the healthier atta. You can even add walnuts for some crunch.”
1. Honey Glazed Baby Carrots
Ingredients: 500gm baby carrots, 2 tbs honey, pinch of freshly ground cumin, salt, 25gm butter
Method: Steam the baby carrots. Add butter to pan and carrots seasoned with salt and cumin. Toss till well coated. Add honey and toss till glazed Serve hot
By Nitin Mongia, chef and founder, Kiki’s Pizza & More.
Quirky carrot dishes: Here are few out of the box ideas to give the regular carrot dishes a twist:
1. Carrot Fries: This is a healthier option to your regular French fries that are made of potatoes. You can make carrot fries in the oven instead of deep frying. Peel the carrots and cut them lengthwise in half, and then in half again. Season with salt and pepper. Spread in an even layer on a baking sheet and bake in a preheated oven for 20 minutes, or until tender and crisp at the ends. In a small bowl, whisk together mayo (you can use curd for a healthier option) chipotle and lime juice. Serve carrot fries with sauce.”
2. Coriander-Roasted Carrots: Peel carrots and cut into 4-5cm / 1.5-2 inches pieces. Put the pieces into a bowl. Dry roast coriander seeds and black pepper. Coarsely ground the roasted spices and sprinkle over carrots. Salt the carrots and mix well. Pour oil into a small container. Peel and mince the garlic and mix it with the olive oil. Mix oil-garlic mixture with the carrots and pour the carrots into an ovenproof dish. Bake in a preheated oven until soft and brown around the edges.
3. Quirky carrot salad: Keep the grated carrots into a big bowl, then add some coriander leaves, poppy seeds (khus khus), pomegranate seeds and lime juice and zest. Season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste and drizzle with the extra virgin olive oil.
4. Carrot apple juice: Peel the carrot and add pieces of both carrot and apple in a blender jar or juicer. Prepare a puree. You can either use this thick puree or you can sieve it through a cheesecloth. Squeeze some lemon juice and add some ginger for extra zing.
By Sheriyar Dotivala, executive chef, The Resort