Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Salade aux carottes a la marocaine (Moroccan carrot salad)

Seasonality is a wonderful thing. But this time of year, it’s often not clear what season it really is. One day it seems almost appropriate to break out the chilled rosé, on the next the only enticing beverage is a steaming cup of hot chocolate.

Adding to the challenge is the paucity of enticing fresh produce. Faced with a choice between wintered-over apples and yet more cabbage, a pizza suddenly seems like a very good idea.

Carrots span any number of seasonal interregna, and with any luck, the ones available now will be young and fresh-dug. On the warmest of days, copy the French and serve a plate of raw, grated carrots, tossed in a sweet-sharp dressing, to awaken the palate.* Or braise carrot batons in stock and a bit of butter, finishing the dish with tarragon or chervil.

I’m partial to a Moroccan-style carrot salad in most seasons. At this time of year, though, it is particularly enticing, filling and substantial, yet bright in colour and flavour. Serve it now with roast lamb or chicken. And when it’s finally time for barbeques and picnics, make it as a side dish for grilled merguez (thin, spicy lamb sausages) or alongside tabbouleh, grilled peppers, feta and the like.

Finally, as I discovered last night, it’s a good make-ahead contribution to dinner parties or pot-lucks: pretty on the plate, able to survive a wait (or a trip on the Paris metro in rush hour) and complementary to a wide variety of foods.

Moroccan Carrots

Adapted from Jenifer Joyce and Victoria Blashford Snell’s Diva Cooking
Serves 4
Active time: 25 minutes; Total time: 3-4 hours+

Try to use the best carrots—fresh, sweet, not woody—for this dish. If you only have ground cumin and coriander, this salad is still worth making. Just ensure that the spices are recently bought and well amalgamated into the dressing.

½ kilo carrots
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
½ tablespoon smoked paprika (sweet or hot, as per preference)
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 ½-2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Parsley or coriander (cilantro)

Peel carrots and slice into coins of (relatively) even thickness. Cook in salted boiling water until tender but not disintegrating. This can take from 7-15 minutes depending on the size and thickness of the sliced carrots. Drain and set aside.

While the carrots are cooking, make the dressing. Peel garlic and crush to a paste in the mortar and pestle. (A pinch of salt helps to add grip.) Add cumin and coriander seeds and continue grinding until seeds are thoroughly broken up.

Transfer spice mixture to a bowl and measure in smoked paprika. Add olive oil gradually, stirring to combine with the solids. Squeeze in lemon juice until the dressing is pleasantly sharp (somewhere between a 2-1 and 3-2 ratio.) Salt and pepper to taste.

Pour the dressing over the carrots, mixing thoroughly. Refrigerate for several hours or overnight to combine flavours.

Allow the salad to return to room temperature. Just before serving, check seasoning and add chopped herbs to taste.

*Carottes râpées are sold in traiteurs and supermarkets and served as a first course in bistros. The pre-prepared versions often sit too long, turning unpleasantly acidic. But made with care, as per these recipes, they're a simple, refreshing salad.


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Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

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健豪 said...
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