Monthly Powerfood series is back with the Vitamin A powerhouse and recipes for a complete carrot-based menu: vegan and gluten-free.
You know my credo, Adventurer: I don’t really believe in superfoods as I’m more a fan of a balanced, varied nutrition. And yes, it’s possible to fit healthy eating into a busy lifestyle, but we’ll talk about this later.
Today’s post is all about carrots.
Carrots are a very democratic and yet cosmopolitan vegetable: you will find carrots in many national cuisines around the world, and be able to source local carrots pretty much throughout the year.
Widely known as a great source of β-carotene which our bodies metabolize into Vitamin A for 100 grams carrots mean 100 % of recommended daily intake* and antioxidant micronutrients, carrots are also pretty rich in Vitamin K, Vitamin B6, and dietary fibre.
* From raw carrots, only under 5% of the β-carotene
are released, carrots are best enjoyed with some oil,
Apart from enjoying recipes based on these bright orange – or yellow, or purple, or white – roots and sometimes their green tops, carrot seed oils are used, mostly in cosmetics, but also in aromatherapy. Carrot seed oil is beneficial for the digestive tract.
There are three different carrot seed oil varieties: first, the essential carrot seed oil, an aromatic, pale yellow or golden oil that can be also used for its sunscreen effects. The cold-pressed carrot seed oil is orange or green, rich in carotenoids, great to improve skin vitality and elasticity. Both oils have fantastic rejuvenating properties, while the essential oil is used for aromatherapy because of its soothing and calming scent. Like broccoli seed oil and even raspberry seed oil that are both amazingly effective, this oil is clearly underrated by the beauty trendsetters.
Carrot macerated oil or carrot infused oil on the other hand is obtained by macerating carrots in a carrier oil and is bright orange in colour; its benefits can vary depending on the carrier oil used (mostly sunflower, rarely olive oil) but it’s safe to say it’s cheaper and has mostly “tanning” properties.
Recipes: A Study in Orange
While carrots are delicious quite as they are, grated raw, roasted, cooked, any cook will tell you that carrots love spices (ginger, chili, paprika), herbs (sage, parsley, mint), and sweetness (honey, apples, dried fruits or berries).
Entrée (or a side):
Carrots roasted with sage leaves
This is a time-saver, warming, tasty, savoury. You can serve it on a salad bed, with basmati or saffron rice, but also on its own, as a warm entrée.
Eyeball the amount of ingredients 😉
Peel carrots, chop in bite-sized chunks, drizzle with a little organic canola oil or organic coconut oil or, if feeling particularly fancy, blend them with grated cacao butter. Put onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, sprinkle with a little salt and top with fresh, washed sage leaves. Roast in a preheated (210°C) oven for about 15 minutes, drizzle with (vegan) honey, top with dollops of (vegan) cream cheese and a hearty amount of freshly ground white pepper – serve warm.
Alternatively: steam the cut carrots with fresh sage leaves instead of roasting.
Carrot creme soup
I weigh out about 500 grams carrots for two servings, a good wedge of a pumpkin and a piece of a sweet potato (both should be about half the weight of the carrots) plus two middle-sized red onions. Pumpkin + sweet potato are completely optional.
Wash, chop, brush on a little organic canola oil, add a little salt and a lot of spices – I love Cajun Spice and Tango Argentino organic salt and spice blends by Herbaria – and roast in the oven until tender. Once soft, let cool a little bit, blend in a heat-proof blender or food processor and add vegan broth otherwise you’ll obtain puree, not soup 😉 Spice up with 1-2 tablespoons of ginger juice.
Serve topped with vegan yogurt and finely cut dried apricots.
Tip: spicy roasted pumpkin seeds, pine/ cedar nuts, or cashews make a fantastic topping that makes you wonder why croutons were ever invented.
Vegan Gumbo Z’herbes
Delicious and very easy to make, this recipe rocks carrots with fresh baby spinach leaves, tofu and cacao powder!”
Cook 200 grams basmati rice.
Cut 250 grams baked tofu into bite-sized chunks. In a bowl, blend together mashed garlic (1-2 cloves), 1 tablespoon dry thyme, 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper or chili flakes, 1 tablespoon cacao or carob powder and about three tablespoons of soy sauce, and rub the marinade into the tofu bits.
Heat oil in a large pan, add one large, finely chopped onion and three medium-sized, slivered carrots and fry, stirring. Once the onions start to get golden and the carrots soften, add our seasoned tofu and vegetable broth (1 cup) and cook on medium heat for about 15 minutes. Once the sauce starts to thicken, add washed, dry baby spinach leaves and let these sit in the pan just until they wilt.
Serve on a bed of rice with extra hot sauce for individual seasoning.
BTW, this recipe is from an earlier post in which I discussed veganising the Southern recipes from True Blood. Eats, Drinks, and Bites from Bon Temps.
Vegan, gluten- and flour-free carrot cake
There are plenty of great vegan carrot cake recipes out there, some are even gluten-free. I have tried several, but in the end, I had an unusual, flour-free favourite. Those who love bread and pastry will probably not love it, but if you like the sweetness of carrots, raisins, pineapple, the crunch of caramellised walnuts, and the sour taste of (vegan) cream cheese, try it.
Yields two servings.
Blend 1 cup of grated carrots with 1 handful each of raising, finely cut pineapple, 4 tablespoons coconut oil, 6 tablespoons coconut sugar and 1/2 cup applesauce.
Season with coconut sugar or Xylitol with vanilla, set aside.
In an ungreased pan, caramellise 1 handful crushed walnuts with coconut sugar or xylitol.
Preheat the oven (210°C); once the oven is ready, blend the carrot mix with walnuts and bake for about 15 minutes either spread on parchment paper or pressed in two small round moulds. The “batter” will not bake in the proper sense anyway, so you’ll press it into shape later. And this you can do in two ways: first, scoop the caramellised “cake” into jars for a verrine dessert, or layer onto individual plates using large cookie cutters.
For the frosting, mix vegan cream cheese (Soyananda is my favourite in terms of texture, omega-3 content, and taste) with favourite sweetener to taste and a moccha spoon of organic rose water.
Use the frosting to put together layers of your “cake”, and to top. I like to add a spoonfull of organic applecause on top as well. But as I said above, it actually won’t impress anyone who loves the real deal: bisquit, and the taste of eggs and butter. People who prefer veggies (and applesauce!) like myself though will love it 😀