Next to potatoes, carrots are apparently Britain’s most popular vegetable. I can’t for the life of me see how. They don’t pop up on every midweek supper table and they rarely appear at weekend dinner parties.
So what on earth do we do with them? Oh, of course, silly me. They must disappear into the nation’s carrot cakes.
Joining the carrot-cake fodder on the supermarket shelves recently is the squat, sharply tapered Chantenay carrot, currently being harvested in Lincolnshire and Northamptonshire. The Chantenay was developed for the canning industry in the 1950s, which suggests that the shape is more crucial to its success than its flavour.
The flavour is nothing special, but its small, cute, conical shape lends itself to being cooked whole and added to stews. Boil or steam them, and toss in butter and toasted cumin seeds, or roast alongside poussin in 30 minutes flat. Cooking in chicken stock and butter enhances the flavour, especially if you let the stock cook away until the carrots are rolling around in nothing but buttery juices.
Chantenay carrots are available in Waitrose, Sainsbury’s, Marks & Spencer, Asda and Morrisons, but you can use any flavoured carrot for this soup recipe. It makes a change from carrot cake.
Italian carrot soup
Prep: 30 min
Cook: 45 min
1 onion, halved and finely sliced
2 tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves
2 celery stalks
1 large potato, peeled
200ml dry white wine or champagne
1.2 litres boiling water or chicken stock
1 bay leaf
A few thyme sprigs
Pinch of grated nutmeg
Sea salt and pepper
1 tbsp torn flat parsley leaves
Heat the onions and olive oil in a frying pan and cook gently for ten minutes until soft but not browned. Slice the garlic, carrots and celery, chop the potato, and add to the pan, tossing well to coat in the onions. Add the wine, allow to bubble, and reduce by half. Add the hot stock or water, bay leaf, thyme, nutmeg, sea salt and pepper, stirring well. Simmer until all is tender.
Remove the bay leaf and thyme, and mash the soup with a potato masher. Whiz half the soup in a blender, then return to the pan, stirring well. Serve in warm soup bowls, scattered with parsley.