Food shopping with one of my offspring recently, I discovered that the said loved one would prefer not to be served meat, fish or poultry on Christmas Day. This news did not really surprise me, as I had noticed a marked change in the shopping habits over the last several months, with more and more one-kilogram bags of carrots, amongst other vegetables, being added to the trolley each week.
Carrots always go into my market basket too, for I figure that you can (almost) never have too many of them. I say 'almost' because I once knew a leading nutritionist whose skin had turned yellow-orange from eating too many carrots and too much pumpkin. It's a non-toxic condition known as Beta-carotenemia, caused by the accumulation of naturally-occurring carotenoids or richly coloured pigments synthesised by plants. The treatment, she explained to me, was to eat a low-carotene diet for a few months.
Scouring my library of cookbooks for deliciously interesting ways with vegetables, I came across a recipe by Joanna Preuss which appeared in The Lodge Cast Iron Cookbook. The original recipe called for thyme infused honey, and the addition of a couple of tablespoons of sherry or white wine vinegar. Curiously, the only time Peter enjoys vinegar is malted vinegar on fish and chips, so I thought it best if left it out.
Not only is this a tasty offering, it's vibrant in colour and looks quite festive too. The thing I like most about this dish is that it's a doddle to make, AND I can use my Solidteknics cast iron sauteuse which, incidentally, would make a perfect Christmas gift for the cook in your family. I use mine almost every day and cannot recommend it highly enough.
SWEET BRAISED CARROTS WITH CRANBERRIES
1 teaspoon olive or vegetable oil
1/2 cup vegetable or chicken stock
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1-2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon chopped parsley
a few sprigs of lemon thyme, optional
sea salt and white pepper, to taste
Peel the carrots and cut them into finger sized pieces. For large carrots, you'll cut them in half across the middle, then into halves and quarters lengthways. Warm the oil over medium heat in a cast iron skillet. Toss in the carrots and, with a wooden spoon, gently stir fry them in the pan for two or three minutes. Add the butter and the stock, lower the heat and cook gently until the carrots are starting to soften, but are still relatively firm. Stir in the cranberries and honey, and heat through. Season to taste with the sea salt and white pepper. Sprinkle with the herbs before serving. This quantity will serve 4-6. Preparation time around ten minutes. Cooking time around ten minutes.
Note: You can make this dish ahead of time (sans the herbs). Simply cover and store in the refrigerator, then reheat when ready to serve.
Tell me dear readers, do you like to offer your guests an assortment of vegetable dishes? Has your skin ever turned yellow-orange from eating too many carrots?
If you have time, I'd love for you to pop in and leave me a comment.
Hello. I'm Liz, a writer, cook and traveller based in Canberra, Australia.
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NB: I use Australian standard measuring cups and spoons in my recipes.