Friday, 28 October 2011

Coconut and Curry Carrot Puree

Try saying that one fast, ten times in a row.

Maybe later.

To me there's something elegant about purees. They seem to go with posh meals in fancy restaurants. . . elevating common vegetables to the status of gourmet foods.

Or maybe it's just the thrill of being able to legitimately eat what smacks of baby food, tweaked a little and promoted to sophisticated adult status.

(Transporting us back to the comfort foods of childhood.)

These don't look like particularly elegant carrots. In fact the're downright homely-looking. But, boy are they sweet and delicious. I have three shopping bags of them in my downstairs refrigerator, gifted by my mother-in-law from her abundant garden. (My carrots this year were kind of skimpy.) They are sweet like sugar with an intense carrot flavour that belies their rough-looking exterior. If you can get your hands on carrots like these - grab them and hoard them.

And if you can't, even regular carrots will be transformed to something magical in this comforting autumn side dish. If you don't have the time or the inclination to make the garnish, the carrot puree is quite wonderful on its own, as a side dish with pork or chicken. It's a quick everyday way to serve carrots. The delicate coconut flavour shines through and spooning up the soft puree is addictive.

However, if you add the garnish, the whole dish pops. The added flavours and texture of the crisped onions and pumpkin seeds make the subtle coconut and carrots sing.

Definitely good enough for company.

Coconut Curry Carrot Puree with a Pumpkin Seed Garnish

2 lbs. (900 to 1000gms) peeled carrots (start with more, to account for the lost weight of the peels)
3/4 to 1 cup (180-240mls) canned coconut milk (stirred first)
1 tsp. (5ml) curry powder
1/2 tsp. salt

Optional Garnish

1 Tbsp. (15ml) coconut oil or butter
1 cup (240ml) chopped onion, (1 small onion)
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds,
1 tsp. nigella seeds, or black sesame seeds, or regular sesame seeds
1/2  tsp. (2.5ml) cumin
1/2 tsp. (2.5ml) curry powder
1/4 tsp. (1.25ml) salt
sprinkle of cayenne

*nigella seeds are available at East Indian grocery stores

Cut the peeled carrots into large chunks and put into a saucepan. Add about 1/2" (1cm) water to the bottom. (If your carrots aren't really sweet, you can cheat by adding 1 tsp (5ml) sugar to the water.) Cover and bring to a boil. Turn down heat and simmer until tender, about 20-30 minutes.

Drain the carrots (don't wash the pot yet) and put into a food processor with 3/4 cup (180mls) coconut milk, curry powder and salt. Puree til smooth. Depending on the moisture in your carrots, add the remaining 1/4 cup (40mls) coconut milk until the thickness of the puree is to your liking. Return the puree to the pot.

Alternately, you can add the coconut milk, curry powder and salt to the drained carrots in the pot, and use an immersion blender to puree the mixture - less dishes to wash.

Reheat the mixture gently over low heat and serve as is.


(while the carrots are cooking) Make the Garnish:

In a small frying pan heat the coconut oil over medium-high heat. Add the chopped onion and saute, stirring occasionally, until the onion starts to turn a nice dark brown at the edges. Just watch that it doesn't burn. 

Add the pumpkin seeds and saute for another 5 minutes, until the onions start to get crispy and you hear the occasional pumpkin seed pop. You're aiming for flavourful, nicely browned and caramelized onions and toasted pumpkin seeds.

Stir in the nigella seeds, cumin, curry powder, salt and a sprinkle of cayenne. (You just want a mild nip here, so as not to overpower the delicate carrot flavour.)

Saute, stirring constantly, for another minute or two to bring out the flavour of the spices.

Sprinkle the garnish over the carrot puree or serve in a separate bowl and let your eaters add it at the table.

Serves 4 to 6.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Healthy Fudge with a Wicked Alias

This unassuming little fudge leads a double life.

All year long it is a workhorse - packing a powerhouse of nutritious ingredients into an appealing, simple-to-make treat.

Totally fools the eye.

It can be made with any combination or variety of nuts and seeds. Measure out a few ingredients, stir it up in a pot, and it's ready to eat in a short time.

I'm not sure where I got the original recipe. It's handwritten on a splattered and well-thumbed page in my old hard-covered lab notebook that houses my collection of tried-and-true recipes. Its source is unknown. I may have copied it from a magazine or a pamphlet, or gotten it from someone I once knew but have now forgotten. I cannot remember. But I have made it many times and only altered it slightly over the years.

It is headed with the unpretentious title of Health Fudge in my book, but I like the title Birdseed Fudge, or Seed Fudge better, or maybe even Eat More Fudge, because it tastes to me like an Eatmore Bar. You can call it whatever you like. It always turns out and is indestructible to transport. It is naturally gluten free. And it's very yummy.

Where the double life come in (and it is a deep, dark, wicked one), is in its shape-shifting abilities. This fudge, all year long, cuts beautifully into perfectly square, neat and tidy little fudge-like cubes.

EXCEPT at Halloween.

Then, with a little bit of creative, play-dough wrangling expertise - and for a short time only - it becomes pumpkin poop.

Yep. Pumpkin Poop.

That is what this lovely fudge turns into around Halloween.

Please don't judge it for its deep, dark side. It really cannot help itself. And it behaves perfectly all the rest of the year. I promise.

We're all allowed a little weirdness now and then, aren't we?

This recipe is submitted to the "Our Spunky Holiday" event over at The Spunky Coconut

You can make this fudge with any combination of seeds and nuts you have on hand. Have no pumpkin seeds? Use 1 cup sunflower seeds instead. No walnuts? Use pecans, cashews or peanuts. Like coconut? Use all coconut. Maybe try almond butter or sunflower butter. Play around - just keep the proportions of seeds, nuts and raisins to a total of 3 cups.

Health Fudge

1 cup (240ml) peanut butter
1 cup (240ml) honey
1 cup (240ml) roasted carob powder

1/2 cup (120ml) pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup (120ml) sunflower seeds
1/2 cup (120ml) toasted sesame seeds
1/2 cup (120ml) shredded, unsweetened coconut
1/2 cup (120ml) chopped walnuts
1/2 cup (120ml) raisins

In a bowl measure out the seeds, nuts and raisins and set aside.

In a large saucepan, heat honey and peanut butter, stirring constantly just until smooth. Remove from heat. Stir in carob powder. Mix well.

Dump in nut and seed mixture and stir until evenly mixed.

Mixture will be quite stiff.

Press into a greased 9x9" pan. Use your fingers or the back of a spoon to pat it down. Chill several hours or overnight.

Cut into 1"(2.5cm) squares. I tip the pan onto a cutting board and carefully pry the slab of fudge out in one piece. Then it is easy to cut.

Store in the refrigerator. Keeps for several weeks (if it lasts that long).

Makes 2 1/2 lbs. of fudge (that's over 1 kg.)

Pumpkin Poop

Make above recipe for Health Fudge.
(You could pat half the recipe into a pan for the adults to eat, and prepare the other half of the mixture as follows.)

Instead of pressing the mixture into a pan, let it cool until it is warm enough to handle. Pinch off small turd-sized (sorry, there's no better way to describe that) chunks, and mold, pinch or shape them into appropriately realistic little logs or plops of pumpkin poop.

You will have no trouble enlisting the help of willing little hands to complete this offensive and disgusting task. (Though I can't promise they will as eagerly eat the end results, if they look too realistic.)

Store in the refrigerator.

Makes 2 1/2 lbs. of pumpkin poop. (That's a lot of you-know-what.)

Please. Somebody toilet-train that pumpkin.