The odd life of carrots

May 17th, 2012 | Posted by greg in Daily life...

With a longer-than-usual winter and without much sun before the rain started pouring on a daily basis, local farming got literally clamped down on fruits and vegetables supply that we would usually get at this time of the year. This is especially true for all the farmers relying on natural and organic ways of growing their produces.

As a result of the weather’s caprices, the strawberries were less sweet than usual and their season was thus cut short. Bananas, mangoes and passion fruits, all are held back by their roots, craving for a few more warm rays of light from the sun to ripen properly. As a result, we are receiving market list from local produces with no fruits and a limited vegetable selection. But hey, that’s the way seasons work and I strongly believe that the skills of a chef can largely be determined by its ability to adapt to seasonal produces, and for the chef to be able to feature in the best possible way, the every traits of each vegetable and fruit.

Recently, I was asked to bake a dessert for an event thanking local farmers for their year-long hard work. And rightfully so; to me, farmers are the real artisan of taste, as they nurture their gardens with know-how, love and care to produce the best possible produces. Once you have a beautiful tomato or mango for example, it’s already half way done; you season it, add a little ceci and a bit more of cela and you’re done.

For that dinner, I was told at the last minute that all the fruits were not going to be ripe on time and a new list of seasonal product was sent. Cabbage, beetroot, kale, carrots… carrots? Yes, that name sounded just about right in my pastry chef’s mind. Carrot cake? That wouldn’t really do the trick for a special event and there I was, puzzled to find out how and what carrot could do for me in a dessert. Actually, when I thought about it, I realized I was going in the sense of that trend we see popping up in a few top restaurants in the world at the moment, using vegetables in desserts.

Carrots never see day light, yet, they are multicolor.

The root vegetable, often pureed as baby food, is said to be of great help for our eyes, but are carrots really doing all that? Carrots are great for health, but you would need hundred kilos at once to make an impact on your eyesight. Mango and pumpkin are also packed with beta-carotene as a matter of fact. The popular belief that carrot are good for your eyes comes from the Second World War, when the British Royal Air Force claimed to have pilots with an excellent night vision thanks to their steady carrot diet. Another myth about carrot is their glycemic index. The popular belief that while raw carrot GI is about 16 and cooked carrot 92 is wrong. The real index of cooked carrot is more in the range of 41. As a matter of fact, half a cup of cooked carrot has less than 10 grams of carbohydrates. Thus, again, you would need a lot of carrot to impact your carbohydrate intake.

And so, it was very ok to use carrots in a dessert. The taste of carrot reminded me of a few other ingredients, notably lemon, caramel and pine nuts. I kind of figured that carrot wouldn’t be the main part of the dessert, but rather the partner in crime of a nicely acidic lemon and yogurt pie. I poached the carrots in a light syrup with lots of fresh lemon juice, just al dente. Once the carrots were cooled down, I sliced them in halves and I prepared a dark amber caramel to glaze the carrots with; then deglazed them with a little apple juice. I served the slice of lemon yogurt pie with a few halves caramelized carrots, chopped pine nuts, freshly done dulce de leche and to bring a green touch, I added a few drops of my now cherished basil oil and fresh baby basil.

Surprising is the word; delicious is the very next one coming to mind to describe that dessert.

When Mother Nature decides to challenge chefs with carrots in a dessert, many would turn it down and say no way. In this case, my answer would rather be: Table for how many?

PS: You might have read this article in my regular Asia Tatler Dining column! ;)

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4 Responses

  • Gardenia says:

    I made carrot ice cream.  My family just love it.  I would like to know where did you find the GI information of the raw and cooked carrot?

    • Hello Gardenia, carrot ice cream sounds delicious! I can totally picture it on a warm apple tatin tart!!! :) For the carrot GI index, I have looked on several websites to see what was the average and they all seemed to be around that level, notably on where they refer their data from the Harvard Medical School.

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