Week 9: Merci et adieu aux carottes!

It was honestly a bit of a struggle to rid ourselves of the last few sick, dying and disintegrating-in-situ carrots.  The last recipe that the originals from Normandy appeared in was Gajar Halva (Carrot pudding) where they had to be supplemented by some good, old, run-of-the-mill variety from a 1 kilo bag I had purchased before the surplus arrived and were kept in tip-top shape for two and a half months in the crisper box of our refrigerator.

Again, I suggest, should a farmer from Normandy arrive on your doorstep, his dirty organic carrots in hand, you resist the temptation. You will think, like so many who have gone before you, “But carrots are healthy. And won’t we eat more vegetables if they are already there in our cellar?” But each time you go down the stairs to fetch another kilo and watch the little bugs go scurrying away as you attempt to shake off the caked layer of sand, each time you spend as long cutting away the parts that have blackened as it takes to prepare the rest of the meal, you will remember the words of Chez Maureen. Crates of dirty carrots are best left to rural dwellers.

Where once upon a time there lay a crate or two of carrots…

But, again, do not misunderstand me. Carrots are healthy and yes, maybe you will eat more of them now that you must. Plus they are much more versatile than I would ever have imagined: carrot jam, carrot pudding, carrot pie… Someday I might even by tempted to buy carrots again as I pass them by at the local supermarket, their bright, clean orange skins shining up at me.

And in the process of battling our surplus I’ve also learned some interesting facts about carrots. Did you know that the modern orange carrot is the result of Renaissance era genetic modification?  The ancestral carrot was dark brown, then came yellow and purple varieties before settling on the classic orange. So in fact, we can conclude, the nickname “carrot top” was used to ridicule blondes and old ladies long before it began to demean red-heads.

The last hurrah:

Gajar Halva (Carrot pudding)

Confiture d’oranges, carottes et pamplemousse (Orange-carrot-grapefruit Jam)

Gajar Halva (Carrot pudding)

Betty Crocker really came through for us again with her recipe for this Indian dessert. She suggests that its soothing combination of carrot, raisin, pistachio and cardamom is an excellent counterpoint to heavily-seasoned Indian cooking.  I didn’t serve it with any bold Indian dishes so I can’t give my authoritative opinion on this question, but we liked it just like that nonetheless. If you like cardamom and/or you’ve carrots to spare, it’s definitely worth a try. As the Irish say, never bolt your door with a boiled carrot, use it for Gajar Halva instead.

Carrots, 6, medium, finely-shredded (I swore off shredding carrots after the Tarte Lorraine aux carottes so instead I just finely sliced them. I’m pretty sure shredding them would have been the better route and should you have the courage I encourage you to do so.)

Half-and-half, 2 cups (I’ve discussed half-and-half already, so for newcomers suffice to say it’s a 50% milk-50% cream combo, highly appreciated by the American audience.)

Brown sugar, packed, ½ cup (Mostly difficult to impossible to find in France but a critical ingredient for succeeding at American baking recipes. Thanks to the re-entry of Marks & Spencer into the French market there is now some possibility to find it. I advise that you promptly buy out the whole shelf.)

Raisins, golden, ½ cup

Butter, ¼ cup

Ground cardamom, ½ tsp

Salt, ¼ tsp

Pistachios, unsalted, ¼ cup

  1. Heat shredded, or sliced, carrots and half-and-half to boiling in a saucepan. Cover, reduce the heat, and simmer for approximately 1 hour until cream is absorbed. Stir frequently. (I forgot on multiple occasions that I was making Gajar Halva so the frequent stirring did not happen. Luckily nothing burned and when I remembered that there was a pot of carrots and cream boiling away on the stove I gave it a little whirl. This may have affected the final outcome. If you are committed to your Gajar Halva your results may be even better than ours were.)
  1. Stir in brown sugar, raisins, butter, cardamom and salt. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly until brown sugar is dissolved. About 15 minutes. (That’s the 15 minutes that you do not have to stand patiently over a pot and stir constantly. Anyway, it’s over low heat and it didn’t burn yet. Stir occasionally. Set a timer for the 15 minutes. Really do.)
  2. Add in the pistachios and serve warm.

Gajar Halva (Carrot pudding)

Betty Crocker really came through for us again with her recipe for this Indian dessert. She suggests that its soothing combination of carrot, raisin, pistachio and cardamom is an excellent counterpoint to heavily-seasoned Indian cooking.
Print Recipe

Ingredients

  • Carrots 6, medium, finely-shredded
  • Half-and-half 2 cups
  • Brown sugar packed, ½ cup
  • Raisins golden, ½ cup
  • Butter ¼ cup
  • Ground cardamom ½ tsp
  • Salt ¼ tsp
  • Pistachios unsalted, ¼ cup

Instructions

  • Heat shredded, or sliced, carrots and half-and-half to boiling in a saucepan.
  • Cover, reduce the heat, and simmer for approximately 1 hour until cream is absorbed. Stir frequently.
  • Stir in brown sugar, raisins, butter, cardamom and salt.
  • Cook over low heat, stirring constantly until brown sugar is dissolved. About 15 minutes.
  • Add in the pistachios and serve warm.

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Confiture d’oranges, carottes et pamplemousse (Orange-carrot-grapefruit Jam)

My second foray into the world of brewing jam. While my first carrot confiture has a nice taste, spreading it onto bread requires a bit of dedicated patience. To improve the user experience, this time I chopped the carrots into smaller pieces. (I suppose I could even have shredded them, was shredding carrots not such a harrowing experience.) This version of carrot-jam-with-citrus-in-a-supporting-role is much tarter and closer in flavor to a classic orange marmalade. I didn’t add gelatin because gelatin is not included in my book of Jams-à-la-Grandma (Recettes de Grand-mères) but the confiture would undoubtedly have benefitted from a bit more solidity.

Grapefruit, 1

Oranges, 2, thin-skinned

Carrots, 2 lbs (1 kg)

Sugar, (750 g)

Pistachios, unsalted, (75 g)

  1. Place the whole grapefruit and the two oranges into a pot of boiling water for two minutes. Remove, run under cold water, and dry.
  2. Cut the fruits into slices, remove the seeds and chop each slice into many pieces.
  1. Place the small pieces and any juice that has resulted from the cutting process into the bottom of a large pan.
  1. Peel and finely slice the carrots. Add to the pan.
  1. Add the sugar.
  2. Cover with a light kitchen towel and let sit for 6 hours.
  3. Six hours later… bring the pot to a boil and then cook gently for approximately 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. According to an old French proverb, the jam is ready when a drop on a cold plate does not spread. (Sounds so brilliantly simple and straight-forward and yet so ridden with uncertainties: how cold should the plate be? How big is a “drop”? What exactly qualifies as spreading? Best you ask your nearest Grand-mère.)
  4. Once you are satisfied with your spreading drops or, like me, tired of waiting and wondering, add the pistachios. Let boil shortly.
  5. Pour the jam into the jars. Close tightly and turn upside down to cool.
  6. The cookbook suggests that after a few days you should check the consistency of the jam. If it is too runny, dump all of the jars back into the pot and cook it further. At this point, if you’re willing to go through all of that trouble instead of just informing your guests that “it’s supposed to be that way”, throw in a bit of pectin for good luck. Best you ask your nearest google how much.

Confiture d’oranges, carottes et pamplemousse (Orange-carrot-grapefruit Jam)

This version of carrot-jam-with-citrus-in-a-supporting-role is much tarter and closer in flavor to a classic orange marmalade.
Print Recipe

Ingredients

  • Grapefruit 1
  • Oranges 2, thin-skinned
  • Carrots 2 lbs (1 kg)
  • Sugar (750 g)
  • Pistachios unsalted, (75 g)

Instructions

  • Place the whole grapefruit and the two oranges into a pot of boiling water for two minutes. Remove, run under cold water, and dry.
  • Cut the fruits into slices, remove the seeds and chop each slice into many pieces.
  • Place the small pieces and any juice that has resulted from the cutting process into the bottom of a large pan.
  • Peel and finely slice the carrots. Add to the pan.
  • Add the sugar.
  • Cover with a light kitchen towel and let sit for 6 hours.
  • Six hours later… bring the pot to a boil and then cook gently for approximately 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • According to an old French proverb, the jam is ready when a drop on a cold plate does not spread. (Sounds so brilliantly simple and straight-forward and yet so ridden with uncertainties: how cold should the plate be? How big is a “drop”? What exactly qualifies as spreading? Best you ask your nearest Grand-mère.)
  • Once you are satisfied with your spreading drops or, like me, tired of waiting and wondering, add the pistachios. Let boil shortly.
  • Pour the jam into the jars. Close tightly and turn upside down to cool.

Notes

The cookbook suggests that after a few days you should check the consistency of the jam. If it is too runny, dump all of the jars back into the pot and cook it further. At this point, if you’re willing to go through all of that trouble instead of just informing your guests that “it’s supposed to be that way”, throw in a bit of pectin for good luck. Best you ask your nearest google how much.

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And finally, what you’ve really come here for…

Awful carrot jokes:

What did one snowman say to the other?

It smells like carrots.

What do you call an elephant with a carrot in each ear?

Anything you want—he can’t hear you!

How do you know that carrots are good for your eyes?

Because rabbits don’t wear glasses…

With much gratitude to our carrots, next week it’s back to potatoes and apples:

Potato and leek soup

Pintade à la normande (Guinea fowl, Normandy-style)

Apfelstrudel (Apple strudel)

Porc en croûte de pommes de terre (Pork in a potato crust)

And since we’re already on the subject of cooking things in crusts:

Saumon en croûte de sel (Salt-baked salmon)

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2 Comments

  1. 1 cup white sugar and 2 to 3 Tablespoons of Molasses, voilà Brown Sugar, more Molasses = darker Brown Sugar… Do they sell Molasses in France?
    The recipes sound delicious. I may cheat and use an electric powered piece of kitchen equipment to shred the carrots !
    I did make the Fish Pie, it was excellent.
    Congratulations on a fine job of creative carrot completion, yum.

    1. Thanks and thanks for the tip! Indeed molasses is even harder to find in France than brown sugar… Though the Germans have something similar called “zuckerrübensirup”.

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