Carrots are a versatile vegetable when it comes to cooking. When cooked to their best, carrots are slightly al-dente, a nice bright orange colour and have a flavour unique to carrots. Overdo the cooking time and they will remain bright orange, be softer in texture and be pretty tasteless, which is just how I prefer them! Before you dash off and cook them remember that carrots are equally good, in my opinion better, when raw.
To prepare your carrots as a simple vegetable accompaniment you will need to remove the ferny leaves, if still attached, and wash off any soil. Whether you opt to peel them will depend upon how clean they are and what you are using them for. As with many root vegetables much of the goodness lies just below the surface and peeling takes this away but grit does get into the tinyest of places and gritty carrots are unpleasant. Use a potato peeler to peel them or just scrape away the surface with a knife. Check for Carrot Root Fly damage and if you find any cut it away. All the peel, leaves and trimmings can go in the compost heap so don't bin them.
Depending upon what you are using them for, carrots can be cooked whole, sliced into rings, cut into chunks or battened. The larger the carrot pieces the longer it will take to cook them. For the purpose of this page we will assume they have been sliced into approx 5 mm rings.
- Steam – bring the steamer to boiling point before you add the carrots, steam for about 15 mins
- Boil– bring the water to boiling point before you add the carrots and boil for 15 - 20 mins.
- Carrots make a good addition to a stove top stew or similar.
- They act as a thickening agent if grated and added to a soup, casserole or stew
- Bake– when baked they will caramelise and the flavour will be stronger. Use slightly larger chunks or whole carrots when baking or roasting, brush them with a little butter or oil, put them in a hot oven, approx 180 C, and cook for 35 to 50 mins.
- Smaller chunks need a shorter cooking time than whole carrots.
- Carrots make a good addition to a casserole
- I have no trouble eating carrot cake, yum!
- Grill – possible if par boiled first but probably not worth doing unless you are following a recipe.
- Fry – particularly good in stir fries as they keep their crunchy texture. Use batten carrots if frying as they cook quicker, larger pieces will be hard and unpalatable. Cook for approx 5 mins on a high heat stirring or tossing regularly in the wok or frying pan
Once you have grasped the basics you might like to move on to something more impressive. I have put together a few of our favourite carrot recipes for you to have a go at. Try some of them and then let us know what you think.