From a crunchy quick snack and a wholesome meal to a delicious dessert, carrots make their way into every meal. It can be used in almost every cuisine and has several nutritional benefits too.
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.
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.”