Purple carrot Curry with Coconut Milk | Youtube: Peanut & Pepper
Last week I tried a Mallorcan root veggie I have never bought and have eaten on only three or four occasions at friends’ homes. I’ve never seen it on restaurant menus, although at this time of year it is available at some stalls at the Mercat d’Olivar, as well as the Santa Catalina and Plaza Pedro Garau municipal markets.
It’s the pastanaga morada, to give the Mallorquín name which translates as ‘purple carrot’ and that’s exactly what it is — somewhat larger than its orange-coloured cousins and usually with a tousle of feathery green leaves and a rougher skin.
Trendy cooks in large European cities have discovered the purple carrot in recent years and I suppose in some Mallorcan towns and villages you may find it on a restaurant menu, but for most people it’s a dish you eat at home — or at another person’s home.
When I ate them last week they came as done in a recipe by Santi Taura, one of Mallorca’s most prominent Michelin star cooks.
Santi probably has pastanagas morades on one of his menus but my review budget doesn’t run to eating at Michelin star places, so I had Santi’s recipe (seen on a TV programme) as cooked by Juana Mari, of sister paper Ultima Hora’s administration department.
Juana Mari is mainly a weekend cook who likes to try what’s in season and she occasionally brings me in a portion.
Recently it was a superb moist doughnut made with cacao and yoghurt and she brought it down when I was in the paper’s basement cafeteria and had just taken a café con leche from the machine. Perfect timing.
The Santi Taura recipe was a traditional sauté of mixed seasonal vegetables, one of the principal ones being the purple carrot. It was extremely tasty and the veggies, which included tiny florets of cauliflower, were nicely al dente.
If you’d like to try some pastanagas morades (the season’s a short one) here is the kind of recipe many Mallorcan housewives use.
You will need: 3 bunches of pastanagas morades, 400 grs rice, bunch of spring onions, 2 biggish fresh peeled tomatoes, 2 garlic cloves, chopped parsley, 75 grs shelled walnuts, 50 grs pitted prunes, virgen extra olive oil, 1 teaspoon paprika (pimentón dulce), pinch of cayenne and allspice, salt and pepper to taste.
Peel the carrots and slice thinly. Wash spring onions and slice the green and white parts into 1cm pieces. Finely chop the tomatoes and the garlic. In a saucepan heat four tablespoons of virgen extra olive oil and sauté the spring onions until soft. Add garlic and sauté for another minute.
Stir in the chopped tomatoes, the three spices and salt and pepper to taste. Cover the saucepan and continue to sauté over a low heat for 10 minutes.
Add the sliced carrots, the walnuts, prunes and enough water to cover. Bring to the boil, put the lid on and simmer for 15 minutes or until the carrots are nicely al dente. Serve on a bed of white long grain rice.
The best place to buy pitted prunes and walnuts (as well as all nuts and dried fruits) is the Gelabert stall at the Mercat d’Olivar.
In any recipe that calls for walnuts, always simmer them for five minutes to remove some of the strong tannin taste as well as the skins.
You are more likely to find purple carrots at the Plaza Pedro Garau outdoor market on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays because the people selling them are the same ones of grow them.
That means, among other things, there are no middlemen charging a mark-up on top of the cultivator’s original price.
That’s why prices at the Pedro Garau market, as well as at markets in towns all over the island, are so much lower than elsewhere.
There’s another reason why veggies that come direct from the growers are a better buy: the produce doesn’t undergo any kind of cleansing process that washes or brushes away a great deal of the veggies’ taste and beneficial properties.
Some years ago Sainsbury’s stopped stocking organic carrots from Prince Charles’s Highgrove estate because they rotted quickly. This wasn’t the fault of the carrots, but of the way in which suppliers treat them before they are delivered for sale.
The Highgrove carrots were first rinsed with high pressure jets of water to get rid of any mud and were then scrubbed. This was followed by a polish in a rotating drum with spinning bristles before the removal of any outer membranes. They were then chilled to 2C before being graded and packaged.
This process involved a round trip of some 500 miles to the cleansing depot before the carrots reached the supermarket shelves. It’s hardly surprising the surface of the carrots rotted and went mushy.
This cleansing process also accounts for the carrots being tasteless — most of the goodness had been washed and brushed out of them.
The carrots you buy as the island’s market stalls do not get treated in this way — which is why Majorcan carrots are still full of flavour.
You must also remember that most of the taste in carrots and similar vegetables (as well as many fruits such as apples, plums and pears) is in the skin.
In the case of carrots, you should always try to use them without peeling. When possible, give them only a quick wash under a running tap and, if absolutely necessary, a light scraping.
Carrots are one of our most versatile veggies and can be used for salads, soups, starters, garnishes, creamy appetisers, risottos and other rice dishes, or served with traditional roasts or boiled meats. And their natural sweetness makes them ideal for use in cakes and desserts.
You may already have a carrot salad recipe, but if not try this one. You’ll need 500 grs carrots, 2 tbsps of a single chopped fresh herb such as fennel, dill, parsley or chives, 4 tbsps virgen extra olive oil, 1 tbsp lemon juice, salt and sugar.
Grate the carrots into longish slivers, mix in the other ingredients, adding salt and sugar to taste. Leave the salad in the fridge for at least an hour and just before serving pour off any excess liquid. Toss before adding a sprinkling of herbs and another drizzle of virgen extra olive oil.
For a cold soup that will soon be ideal for a Mallorcan summer lunch, you will need: 500 grs carrots, finely chopped medium sized onion, 2-3 tbsps butter, half litre milk, salt and pepper to taste and finely chopped fresh herbs of your choice.
Lightly scrape carrots, slice and simmer in water to cover for five minutes. Add chopped onion and butter and continue simmering until the carrots are soft. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Put the mixture through a vegetable mill or blitz in a blender. Add milk to bring it to the consistency you prefer, bearing in mind the soup will be slightly thicker when cold.
Chill for several hours and just before serving adjust seasoning and stir in one finely chopped fresh herb. Add a final sprinkling of the herb in the centre of each plate or bowl of soup.
Soups of this kind have a better texture when the mixture is put through a vegetable mill. If you use a blender, blitz the ingredients for as short a time as possible to avoid turning them into a baby food pap.
The French handle carrots better than any other nation and for this excellent hot soup you will need: 500 grs sliced carrots, medium sized chopped onion, 60 grs rice, half litre chicken stock (not a stock cube), 150 grs butter, sprig of fresh thyme, and bread for the croutons.
Sauté the carrots in 50 grs of the butter in a heavy saucepan with a lid. Don’t let them brown. After about 10 minutes add the rice, stock and the thyme and simmer for 20-30 minutes. It is absolutely essential to use fresh thyme for this soup.
Remove the thyme stalk and put the mixture through a vegetable mill or blitz in a blender. Add more stock if the soup is too thick. Reheat and stir in 40 grs just before serving.
Sauté the diced bread in the remaining butter until crisp and serve separately. Mallorcan pan moreno, crusts removed, is ideal for making croutons.
A Moroccan recipe combines carrots with spices to make a soup with a nice exotic touch. You will need: 1 tbsp virgen extra olive oil, 1 chopped onion, 2 chopped garlic cloves, 1 tbsp finely chopped fresh ginger root, 1 tsp ground cumin, a large potato peeled and diced, 1.5 litres chicken or vegetable stock, 1 tbsp honey, 1 tbsp lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste.
Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Add the onion, garlic and ginger and gently sauté for five minutes, stirring constantly. Add cumin, paprika and cayenne and sauté for another 30 seconds.
Add carrots, potato, stock, honey and lemon juice and cook until the vegetables are soft, about 20-30 minutes. Put the soup through a vegetable mill and reheat. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Before serving, garnish each bowl or plate with a little grated carrot, finely chopped parsley, or a swirl of thick yoghurt.
A lovely Persian dish can be eaten with rice and salad to make a vegetarian lunch, or served with poultry or game. It calls for pomegranate juice, which is usually available at El Corte Inglés.
You will need: 3 tbsps butter, 1 finely chopped large onion, 400 grs thinly sliced carrots, 5 thinly sliced stoned dates, 1 tbsp sultanas, 1 tbsp white wine vinegar, 2 tbsps pomegranate juice (or lemon juice), 6 eggs, salt and black pepper to taste plus 1 tbsp each of slivered pistachios and almonds.
Melt the butter in a saucepan, add the onion and sauté until soft and golden. Stir in the carrots until they are well coated with the butter. Add the dates, sultanas, vinegar and pomegranate juice and mix well. Cover the pan and simmer for 30 minutes.
Transfer the mixture to a suitably large frying pan. Break the eggs into a bowl, add salt and pepper to taste, and beat well.
Carefully pour the beaten eggs over the carrot mixture, cover the frying pan, and cook over a low heat until the egg mixture sets. Sprinkle with the slivered nuts and serve immediately.