Summer, bunched carrots are my favourites – sweet and delicate, great for simply munching raw or grated into salads. The first of these to appear in spring come from Spain and have a particularly good flavour.
To cook summer carrots: There’s absolutely no need to peel here – just rinse them under a cold-running tap and cut off the stalks only, just a fraction above the end. This leaves the inside of the carrot intact and, I feel, preserves the flavour. Place them in a steamer, sprinkle with a little salt and steam for about 7 minutes, or until tender when pierced with a skewer but still retaining some firmness and bite. Serve plain, or I like them tossed in butter mixed with some chopped fresh tarragon leaves.
To cook winter carrots: These are available from storage all year round. My favourite way to cook them plainly is to scrape off the skins and cut them into 2 inch (5 cm) chunks, then place them in a saucepan with salt and enough boiling water to barely cover them. Give them about 20 minutes, or until tender but with a little firm bite in the centre, then drain and place them in a food processor and, using the pulse movement, ‘chop’ the carrots quite small, but don’t overdo it or you’ll have a purée.
Quickly return them to the saucepan using a spatula to scrape them back in quickly, add a knob of butter and some freshly milled black pepper, then place them over a gentle heat and stir them around for a couple of minutes to get the heat back in.
1 lb (450 g) of carrots will serve 4.
Celery has such a lot going for it as a raw ingredient in salads, and because of that we rather forget how good it is cooked and served as a vegetable. This method is delightfully quick and easy, and tastes just wonderful.
This is a delicious, summery soup, but it can be made in the winter with two finely chopped leeks instead of the lettuce leaves. Don't be tempted to use stock, as this detracts from the fresh flavour of the carrots.
Black-eyed beans are the lovely nutty beans that are popular in recipes from the deep south of America and, with the addition of other vegetables, they make very good beancakes.
Fresh stocks are now available in tubs from supermarkets, but if you need a large quantity these can be expensive. Powdered, gluten-free vegetable stock, made by Marigold, is widely available – an excellent storecupboard standby.
Since oven-roasted vegetables in the 'Summer Collection' were so very popular, I simply had to do a winter version. Here is it and once again it is a winner for entertaining, not least because all the vegetables can be cooked together.