I don't buy into the smallest is best approach when it comes to choosing vegetables; clearly there is an optimum size for different vegetables.
For me, the carrot picked from the ground to be consumed as soon as possible in its raw state needs to be as thick as my little finger, but for this method for cooking carrots, the carrots need to be at least as fat and as long as your thumb.
These small carrots can be cooked whole. Larger ones, which need to be sliced, also work perfectly here. There are several variations to the master recipe, and I think this method for cooking carrots can open your eyes as to how good carrots can be.
- 450g carrots, peeled and sliced 1cm thick if large, of left whole if small
- 110ml of cold water
- Large pinch of sugar
- Pinch of fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 15g of butter or 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tblsp finely chopped parsley
- One or two words of caution here: choose a saucepan the carrots fit neatly into. In other words, neither too big nor too small. Really fresh small carrots only need scrubbing, while larger older ones need peeling with a fine swivel-top peeler.
- Try and find carrots that have been grown at least in your own country. Spring and summer carrots will have their green leaves still attached.
- If you are storing the carrots in a cool place for a couple of days before use, remove the green leaves as, interestingly, they store better like this.
- With winter carrots the leaves will have died back. Watch out for some of the more interesting varieties of carrots which are starting to make an appearance in farmers' markets and good vegetable shops. Carrot 'Purple Haze', for example, has the most beautiful purple skin and a clashing orange interior. 'Parmex' are golf ball-shaped and quite delicious. 'Nantes' are conventional in shape and appearance and also very good to eat.
- Place all of the ingredients in a low- sided heavy-bottomed saucepan and bring to the boil. Cover and cook for 10 minutes at a simmer. Remove the saucepan lid and continue cooking at a simmer until the carrots are tender.
- Keep an eye on the level of liquid in the saucepan and if it is evaporating too quickly before the carrots are cooked, add in a few more tablespoons of water.
- If all of the water has not evaporated by the time the carrots are cooked, remove the cooked carrots and boil the remaining liquid further to achieve a shiny glaze, then add back the cooked carrots and shake the pan to coat the vegetables in the glaze.
- Add the parsley and slide into a hot serving dish. Serve as soon as possible.