Side dishes. They often get forgotten. Especially when you’ve got an expensive piece of meat in the oven, you’re not necessarily focused on the vegetables accompanying it. Likewise, when you’ve got meat on your plate, many people will eat that first and leave the veggies til last, just in case you can’t fit it all in.
With meat becoming a growing issue in both the farming and the climate change debates, I think its high time that more was made of the veggies and that what meat we do have to grace our plates is of the highest quality, not quantity. This is not a radical vegetarian movement; more an argument for eating meat in sensible amounts as part of healthy, balanced diets. Something that has been championed by many TV chefs, including my inevitable hero Hugh F-W at River Cottage.
Our forebears enjoyed carrots that were full of sweetness and flavour – and not always orange in colour. Your average chopped-up supermarket carrot will be a common or garden variety, developed for bulk sales rather than taste. Yeurgh. What you want to get your hands on is a heritage carrot, one that harks back to the days when carrots came in all sorts of colours and configurations and actually tasted – in that peculiarly sweet and intense way that one remembers from childhood – of carrot.
The following recipe is one of my father’s. It is actually a staple of most of our roast dinners, though when its me cooking (because I never plan anything) it might just end up as herby carrots, flavoured with whatever fresh herbs I can get my hands on. Tarragon is best though.
Carrots, tarragon, brown sugar, butter, salt and pepper
Slice the carrots into rounds, just a bit thicker than a pound coin. Put in a saucepan and JUST cover with water. For four carrots (I do a carrot per person for roast dinners) put in about two tsp of brown sugar. Alternatively you can use the three tsp of honey if you’re not into refined sugars. Chuck in a big knob of butter, big pinch of salt and pepper. Boil the carrots dry and then add tarragon If using fresh tarragon chop up a 25g bunch, omitting any woody bits of stalk. Approximately two tsp of dried tarragon. But once you get to know this dish you’ll probably add more. Fry in the butter until sticky and caramel-y.
Just cooking the carrots with the sugar makes them Vichy Carrots. Adding the herbs makes them the Best Carrots in the World…