There’s a reason the carrot is a common vegetable in almost any cuisine. Its versatility is incredible – it’s as crucial to develop flavours in a good stock or soup as it is delicious on its own. For this dish, I’m letting the carrot take centre stage.
Carrots have been cultivated for thousands of years, though for the most part it hasn’t been a root vegetable. The carrots we know best come from a type of wild carrot which bears little resemblance to the plump orange root vegetable we know best. With a tiny, dark purple root, and acrid in flavour, wild carrots were used as aromatic herbs – just like its relatives parsley, coriander and cumin.
It was only later that humans learned the carrot would grow a sweet, tasty and incredibly versatile root if grown with a little care in good soil. As a root vegetable, the carrot, still purple, was introduced to Europe by the Moors in the 8th century. According to a writer of the time, it was eaten with a little oil and vinger, or mixed with other vegetables or grains. It took another 900 years until the orange variety was developed, quickly overtaking the purple and other varieties as by far the most popular.
Since carrots are fairly sweet I find they’re best either raw, when the sweetness isn’t quite as obvious, or roasted. Roasting the carrots caramelises the outside while intensifying bot the sweetness and flavour of the carrot. In fact, if you’ve roasted your carrots, it doesn’t need much else. On the other hand, it can also take on strong flavours if that’s what you fancy.
For this dish, I’ve kept it simple and reunited the carrot with two close relatives that got left behind as aromatic herbs: cumin and coriander. The cumin seeds for their delicious earthy flavour, the fresh coriander for freshness. And a squeeze of lemon, for balance. That’s it. If you can’t get hold of whole cumin seeds you may use ground cumin, though you’ll have to use a little less and the result won’t be quite the same. In place of coriander you may also use another herb you like.
Roast carrots goes with almost anything. Serve as part of a meze spread or as a side dish with fish, chicken or as part of a vegetarian or vegan meal. Add some lightly toasted nuts or cooked grains and you’ll have a delicious lunch. A bit of yoghurt or labneh also works really well alongside. I’ve used a combination of orange and purple carrots for this salad, though you can use any type you like. The salad is best served warm (but not hot) and can also be served at room temperature. Serves 2-4, depending on what else is on offer.
Roast carrot salad with coriander
500 g carrots, peeled or carefully cleaned, cut into half or quarters length-wise
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp whole cumin seeds (or 1/2 tsp ground cumin)
- the leaves from 5-6 stalks fresh coriander
- juice of 1/4 lemon
- salt and pepper
- Preheat the oven to 220 C.
- Mix the carrot, olive oil and cumin alongside some seasoning. Spread on a roasting tray. Roast in the middle of the oven until the carrots are soft and slightly caramelised along the edges, about 30 minutes. Turn once during roasting.
- When ready to serve, mix the carrots with the coriander seeds, squeeze some lemon juice over and serve.
Serve this dish alongside
- Chicken with Syrian lentils and labneh
- Lentil salad with aubergine (vegetarian)
- Syrian lentils (vegan)