Now that I’ve established that getting a bit of sun isn’t entirely undesirable (And let’s be honest, who doesn’t look better sunkissed?), I can regale you with my favourite carrot recipes. Because of their high beta-carotene content, carrots are essential to a natural, healthy, and durable tan. If you’re serious about getting some colour in your cheeks this summer, a daily glass of freshly squeezed carrot juice is your best investment. But perhaps you don’t like carrot juice? (I used to detest it as a child. And am still confused by its savoury-sweetness today.) Or you’d like to incorporate carrots into your diet in more creative ways? Even if you’re not looking to hit the beach any time soon, carrots should help you improve your vision, reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease, detoxify your body, and even keep your teeth and gums clean and healthy!
So, why not try one, or two, or all three of the recipes below? How about having all three in one grand meal? (They’re all really easy and quick to make.)
Easy Carrot Spread
In a medium saucepan, heat up a bit of olive oil and add 1 large yellow chopped onion. Let soften, then add 1 tsp mustard seeds and 1 tsp cumin seeds. Cook for a couple more minutes. Then add 1/2 kg thickly sliced carrots, and cover with enough water to just cover them. Optionally, crumble in half a soup cube or throw in some fresh herbs (lovage, coriander, basil… you can go crazy here). Cook everything over low heat until the carrots are tender enough for a fork to slide easily through. Drain the water (preferably leaving behind the mustard and cumin seeds) and let the vegetables cool a bit before blending them with 1 garlic clove and 1 tbsp pine nuts (make sure to remove any leafy herbs beforehand). For a greater smoothness, add a drizzle of olive oil. And don’t forget salt and pepper!
This will keep in the fridge for a week, which means that you can make it ahead and have your daily dose of beta-carotene on hand. Smear it on some rye bread and decorate with heirloom tomatoes, use it as a dip for cheese sticks, or plonk a dollop into a grilled veggie pita sandwich.
Spicy Carrot Soup
This recipe is a variation on the über-simple (and delicious!) recipe over at SimplyRecipes. In a large soup pot, heat up a generous dollop of olive oil and add 1 large yellow chopped onion. After it softens, add 3 large carrots, peeled and sliced, and cook until they begin to soften as well. Season with salt and pepper, then add 4 cups vegetable stock, a 4 thin slices of ginger root, and 4 substantial strips of zest from a large orange. Bring to a simmer, then cook a further 20 minutes, or until the carrots have softened completely. Remove the strips of orange zest and blend the soup to smoothness. Add cream for more smooth magic.
Serve it piping hot or at room temperature. On a hot day, it will provide the comfort and nutrients your body needs when you don’t feel like tucking into a heavy lunch.
Real Carrot Fairy Cakes
My favourite thing about carrots is that they’re just as good savoury as they are sweet. It’s why I find it a bit of a shame that so many ‘carrot cake’ recipes call for an army of ingredients whose fragrance and flavour entirely kills the humble carrot. Not so in this recipe! Here, the carrots take centre stage, claiming their right to the spotlight of your taste buds.
In a bowl, gently combine 1 cup flour, 1 cup dark muscovado sugar, 1/2 cup butter at room temperature, 3 eggs, 1 tsp baking soda, and a pinch of salt. Fold in 1 heaping cup finely shredded carrots. Fill a fairy cake tin lined with fairy cake paper cups (12 pieces) with the batter and bake in a pre-heated oven at 150°C for 15 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. For a heavenly frosting, blend together 1 packet Philadelphia cheese with 1/4 cup butter at room temperature and just under 1 cup of confectioner’s sugar.
You can also try other foods rich in beta-carotene, such as sweet potatoes, spinach, butternut squash, or kale. Just keep two things in mind: a) beta-carotene is best absorbed in the body in conjunction with fats, so always add a bit of olive oil or butter to your carrot dishes, b) if you eat a harvest of carrots every day, you’ll eventually become very, very orange. There’s nothing wrong with that! But just so you know.