Monday, December 11, 2006

Heston's carrots

Heston Blumenthal's television programme will end soon, and then what will I have to write about? He has given me the subjects for several entries here, as well as for a column in the New Statesman. I shall miss him.

The third component of his meal last week, along with the roast chicken and the roast potatoes, was carrots. Do not boil them in water, he said: put them in a pan with some butter, salt and pepper, and let them steam in the liquid they produce. He lifted the lid of a saute pan, revealing bright orange carrots bearing, suspiciously, no trace of caramelised butter.

Usually, I cut carrots into thick batons (not rounds, which cook more quickly), put them in a pan with water just to cover them and with a knob of butter, and boil them rapidly until the water evaporates, leaving them with a butter glaze. The softening and evaporation times coincide. The carrots retain their sweetness, which tends to dissipate when they cook in a large volume of water. I could see that Heston's method might retain even more flavour.

It worked pretty well when I tried it last night. The only problem was that my carrots -- chunky, knobbly, organic ones -- did not throw off as much water as Heston had predicted: the result was that the butter caught in places on the pan, and that one or two carrot edges charred. I think that about 3 tbsp water in the pan would be a useful precaution. When the carrots are nearly ready, one can take off the lid, turn up the flame, and allow the carrots to become glossy with butter.

Should one add salt to the pan? As I wrote on the subject of roast potatoes, salt speeds softening. My large and slightly mealy carrots were a little too mushy at the edges, but might not have been had I waited to season them at the table.

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