Bugs Bunny’s Favourite

12 Feb

I really, really love cooked carrots. I’ve loved them ever since I first ate my mother’s carrots, glazed with butter and brown sugar. Sure, I’ll happily do the Bugs Bunny and munch them raw, especially when there’s hummus somewhere in the vicinity. But apply fire and carrots rise to a new level of deliciousness.

I don’t mean the limp, plain ones that you’d get in a cafeteria, tasting of not much besides dirty water. Cooked carrots need bold flavours to bring out their best, whether it’s a honey and wholegrain mustard glaze or a fistful of fresh coriander in soup.

The thing is, until a few days ago I’d never had a main dish in which carrots took the leading role. I’d had plenty of soups and stews with a few chunks of orange root floating in them, and many coleslaws and salads. But I recently purchased an awesome new cookbook called Veggiestan, which contains a vast range of vegetarian recipes which span a region from Morocco to Afghanistan. Amidst the vast quantities of herbs, yogurt, and pulses, I found a recipe for an Afghan carrot hotpot.

When you look at the recipe for the hotpot, you might be wondering what the big deal is – it’s just another curry. And it is a relative of similar Indian dishes, with its combination of turmeric, cumin, and coriander. But the carrots and the vinegar add a layer of sweet-and-sour to the stew’s earthiness and combat the blandness of the pulses. Even better, the big hunks of carrot become wonderfully sweet and earthy, almost meaty in a strange way.

So if you’ve ever felt ambivalent about cooked carrots, this is the recipe to convert you. And if you’re just crazy about them anyway, here’s a new way for you to enjoy them!

Afghan Carrot Hotpot (adapted from Veggiestan by Sally Butcher)

Serves 4

2 onions, chopped
2 tablespoons neutral oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Scotch bonnet chili, chopped (optional – feel free to use a milder chili or to leave it out entirely, if you’re not big on heat)
1cm/0.5in chunk ginger, peeled and chopped
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
0.5 teaspoon ground cumin
0.5 teaspoon ground coriander
0.25 teaspoon whole cloves
600g/1lb 5oz carrots (approx. 4 standard ones), peeled and cut into 5cm/2 in chunks
300g/1.5 cups yellow split peas
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 400g tin/14 oz can chopped/diced tomatoes
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
1 litre/1 quart vegetable stock

Warm the oil in a big saucepan or Dutch oven over a medium flame. Add the onions, garlic, chili, and ginger, and fry until the onions start to soften, 7-8 minutes.

Add the split peas, carrots, and spices, and fry for 2 minutes. Then add the tomato paste and chopped tomatoes. Add a pinch of salt, then mix in the stock.

Bring everything up to a boil, then simmer gently for an hour to an hour and fifteen minutes, until the split peas are quite soft and falling apart. Check the stew occasionally to make sure the liquid hasn’t completely cooked off – if things are too dry, add 100ml/0.5 cups of water at a time.

Serve up with rice and plain Greek yogurt (especially important if you use the Scotch bonnet!)


2 Responses to “Bugs Bunny’s Favourite”

  1. Mom Mom's Apron February 20, 2012 at 6:24 PM #

    This sounds wonderful! I have a freezer full of Scotch Bonnet chili peppers from my garden, so this will leave me with one less. Can’t wait to try this.

  2. Sarah February 20, 2012 at 8:15 PM #

    Wow, that’s a lot of Scotch bonnets! Have you considered making your own hot sauce? Anyway, glad you like the recipe, and thanks for reading!

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