Thursday, 31 January 2019

Vanish that Veg! Carrots

Half a cabbage.  Most of a bag of carrots.  Several potatoes which are starting to sprout.

However carefully I buy my vegetables, I often find myself needing to use up one or two which have been sitting in the fridge for far too long.  I need recipes that convert a large quantity of one vegetable into the main part of a meal.  And I don't mean soup.  I mean something that my kids will eat some, if not all, of.  Something that won't be lurking accusingly in the fridge five days later.

I'm gradually building up a collection of these recipes.  These are dishes that I've made several times.  They're tasty, easy, and packed with vegetables.  So have a look in your fridge, read through the recipes, and let's vanish that veg together!

Carrots


Everyone in my family actually likes carrots, so they are much easier to use than, say, brussels sprouts (which Toby recently accused me of trying to sneak into every meal).  They can go sweet, savoury, or somewhere in between.  I've been making some of these recipes for at least 15 years, so they are tested to the max - in fact, I was quite surprised they haven't made it on to the blog before now.

Martha's Famous Carrot Cake



Let's face it, cake is what you really want to make with carrots!  This is not your stodgy dry nutty kind of carrot cake.  It's light and moist and covered in far more cream cheese icing than is good for you.  And it sells well at cafes, too!

8 oz carrots
8 oz plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
10 oz sugar
3 eggs
8 oz vegetable oil (by weight)

Grease and line a 12 x 8 inch brownie tin.  Preheat oven to 180C / 350F.
Grate the carrot or cut into chunks and blitz in a food processor.
If using a food processor, add the rest of the ingredients to the carrot and whizz until combined.  Otherwise, put the grated carrot in a large bowl with the other ingredients and mix with an electric mixer until well mixed.
Pour into the tin and bake 45-50 minutes until the cake feels firm.  Cool in the tin, then ice.

For the cream cheese icing, beat together 3 oz softened butter, 3 oz full-fat cream cheese, 10 oz icing sugar and 1-2 tsp lemon juice until fluffy and creamy.  Spread over cake.

Roasted carrot and chickpea salad

Here's something a little bit healthier!  You can mix it with some couscous or rice to make it more substantial, sit it on some spinach, or serve with some grilled chicken on the side.

2 large carrots, peeled and cut into 2cm chunks
1 tsp sesame seeds
2 tsp olive oil
salt and pepper
400g can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

Dressing
1 tsp tahini
1 tsp olive oil
2 tbsp orange juice
1 small garlic clove, crushed
2 tbsp chopped parsley or coriander


Heat the oven to 180C / 350F.  Boil or microwave the carrots until they are almost tender.  Drain, then tip into a roasting dish and toss with the sesame seeds, oil, salt and pepper.  Roast for 20 minutes or so until they are slightly browned.  Stir in the chickpeas and give them 5 minutes in the oven just to warm.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk the tahini, olive oil, orange juice and garlic together and season to taste.  When the carrots and chickpeas are ready, tip them into the bowl, sprinkle over the parsley or coriander, and toss it all together.  Eat warm or at room temperature.  Serves 2-4 depending what you have with it.

Spicy rice supper


I can't believe I haven't told you about this dish before - but if it is on the blog, I can't find it.  This is one of those wonderful recipes that you can make from almost nothing and it tastes fantastic.  It's spicy in the sense of being not spicy at all really, but it comes from a rather elderly cookbook that obviously considered a teaspoon of paprika to be rather daring.

Long grain rice, measured to 200 ml in a jug
400ml chicken stock, made with a stock cube and boiling water
2 tbsp oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 tsp chilli powder (mild or hot)
1 tsp paprika
1 large carrot, grated
a few handfuls of frozen prawns, defrosted
a few handfuls of frozen peas

If possible, cook the rice in advance and leave to cool.  But if not, that's fine too.  Put the rice in a medium saucepan and pour the stock over.  Put the lid on, bring to the boil, then turn down to the lowest heat possible and set a timer for 15 minutes.  Don't touch it till the timer rings; then just turn the heat off and leave the rice to sit until you need it.

In a large frying pan or wok, heat the oil and fry the onion until soft.  Add the chilli powder and paprika, give it a quick stir, then add the grated carrot and cook for a couple more minutes.  If you have raw prawns you can add them with the carrot and cook until pink.

Add the cooked rice, peas, and the prawns if they are ready-cooked.  Stir and fry for a few more minutes until everything is nice and hot.  Serve in large heaps.  This should feed 4 comfortably, but it's surprising how much of it you can get through!

Other suggestions

Carrot cornbread is good with chilli or stews.

I know I said no soup, but I have to mention our competition-winning, culture-crossing, carrot and orange soup.  I might have to give you the recipe for that another time, though.



Over to you

Any favourite carrot recipes?  Let me know!

Thursday, 24 January 2019

Catching up

I know some of you appreciate the family news I post on here, so here's a quick summary of what each of us has been up to over the last couple of months.


Toby


- went to his first Cubs meeting on a night when they were eating hot dogs and marshmallows, loved it, and was very proudly invested as a member just before Christmas.



- spends his spare time writing stories, designing vehicles, and playing Super Mario Bros.



- has a large collection of beer bottle caps (any donations welcome, as his primary provider was an ex-work-colleague of Graham's).



- plucked up courage to go on a zipwire at the playground, and discovered it was great fun.



- enjoyed Lego, lots of books, penguin pajamas and a remote control car for Christmas.



Theo


- likes playing on the bikes and in the home corner at school.



- is now right at home with phonics: "I can spell cat!  Cuh, Ah, Tuh."  He's also been telling us about digraphs, at which point Graham and I nod enthusiastically and give each other bemused looks over Theo's head.  All this was out of fashion when we were at school.

- was a very cheerful king in his nativity play.



- enjoyed a new scooter, a car racing track, a chef's hat and apron, and colouring pencils for Christmas.


- is constantly asking how many days it is till his 5th birthday (not long now...)


Graham



- started a full-time management role at a company where he's been working part time for a while.  There's a lot to do but he feels like it's going well.  (Apparently some customers have already commented on the improvements he's made!)

- spent a weekend in Scotland being support crew for a guy cycling in a mountain-bike endurance race.  18 hours driving and 2 nights in a camper van in freezing temperatures sounded like too much endurance for me!  (Read the story here)

- discovered the enormous Sutton Park in Sutton Coldfield, so we went for a visit and explored one small corner of it.



Martha




- enjoyed escaping from the kitchen over Christmas - we went to visit Graham's family and then my parents, so we did all of the driving and none of the catering this year!

- thought everyone was going to be trying to slim their waistlines and fatten their wallets in January, so has been surprised that the cafe is actually quite busy.  Bacon and eggs never seem to go out of fashion.


- spent the morning of her birthday taking sons to swimming lessons, playdates and soft play parties, but then got taken out for a delicious Italian meal in the evening (another of Graham's discoveries).


- has much longer hair than she has done for a while, but no good photos of it yet.