I am quite a thrifty cook. In fact, I pride myself on the claim that I could probably feed a family of four a week's worth of meals for around £40-50; that is, of course, if they don't mind small portions, no/little meat or fish and losing 5 lbs a week. Though in all seriousness, I am rather talented at creating a meal which seems to have cost nothing, using all the little bits in the store cupboard and fridge that would either get thrown away (though not in my household - I can't remember the last time I did that; I even keep the skins of peeled potatoes and roast them for lunch the next day) or just added to/alongside a meal that is not dependent on them.
Today I have a problem. Carrots. My vegbox always has carrots, which in the winter and autumn is great. I actually tend to buy additional carrots since they quickly get used in a soup/stew or roasted in some interesting way alongside a hearty slice of pie. In the summer carrots are not as straight forward. I often find I am struggling to think of ways each week to make a meal out of them. This week I have used every vegetable from my veg box and my fridge is nearly empty (we are going away for the weekend, so I am trying to not buy a bunch of fresh ingredients), apart from a large, brown paper bag, slumped in the bottom corner. The bag is wet at the back from the condensation in the fridge, and out of the wet torn paper, four-day-old carrots tease me. It has been a long week, and I cannot be bothered to think about something new to do with them on a Friday afternoon. As a result, I started researching ideas online.
I came across a recipe by Nigel Slater, posted on his website. The original recipe is "Carrots, Black Beans and Crisp Onions". This recipe is perfect as it also uses the last handful of a bunch of coriander I have. I have a cupboard full of beans, unfortunately they are all dry and require soaking. So instead I reach for the last handful from a bag of wholegrain spelt and start modifying.
Fragrant puréed carrots, spelt and crispy onions
- cleaned carrots, 500g
- wholegrain spelt, 75g
- freekeh, 25g
- onion, finely sliced
- black pepper
- ground coriander, tsp
- butter, about 15-20g (ghee would go nicely if to hand)
- cumin seeds, heaped tsp
- oil, 2 tbsp
- sea salt
- freshly squeezed lemon juice, tbsp
- roughly chopped coriander, handful
In this recipe I only had about 75g of spelt left and so also used 25g of freekeh. I would definitely recommend this combination to add to the texture of the dish, but if you don't have any freekeh then experiment with other combinations: perhaps a handful of lentils etc.
Chop the carrots into largish chunks and place in a pan covered with water. Bring to the boil and then reduce to a simmer over a medium heat until a fork can penetrate them without mush resistance. When they reach this point remove them from the pan and place into a bowl to cool down slightly (preserving the water).
Meanwhile, in a separate pan, cover the spelt in fresh water and bring to the boil. Reduce to a simmer over a medium-high heat and cook for about 20-30 minutes, adding the freekeh about 10-15 minutes before the end. Check the grains are soft enough before draining them.
When the carrots aren't too hot place them in a small food processor along with the butter (or ghee), ground coriander, lemon juice, a pinch of sea salt and a good grinding of black pepper. Blitz into a purée and set to one side (placing some foil over the food processor bowl may be useful to keep the purée warm).
About 10 minutes before the grains are cooked, heat the oil in a frying pan over a moderately high heat and add the onion. Fry until golden and crispy, stirring occasionally (allow the onion to caramelise a bit, but not to burn), and then add the cumin seeds a few minutes before the end.
Divide the purée into two bowls. Drain the cooked grains through a sieve, and add to the bowls. Finally, remove the onions from the pan and place on some kitchen paper to dry, leave for a minute and then sprinkle over the two bowls. Serve with the chopped coriander and some sea salt on top.