Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Portuguese Carrots - Nostalgic Nibbles

As predicted, when I bought my paella dish, my life  improved. Who's wouldn't when you can stand at the hob pretending to be teeny tiny midget cook (oh hang on...) stirring away at a giant pan?! It is fun, it looks impressive and genuinely cooks a paella better than doing it in a frying pan which is quite frankly the wrong size and shape. I love Spanish food for it's bold bright flavours, and all the bits and pieces that come with a nice tapas spread. However, a Spanish feast can sometimes lack a good balance of meat and veg, and although a confirmed carnivore, I do like to offset my meat consumption with the crunch of some veg. These carrots are nearly always served up as a little nibble in the restaurants we visit on holiday in the Algarve, accompanied by tiny bitter olives and gross anchovy paste that only my Father will eat. So it's not Spanish but I don't think anyone minds me borrowing a dish from over the border. Masterchef, this ain't, but it's a lovely little nibble that does very well as part of a tapas or mezze spread, or with a bowl of fried chorizo (and useful for hummus and pitta ruts).

No real measurements but you do need it to have a nice nudge of garlic, as opposed to a headbutt, and you should be able to taste the olive oil through the dressing, so go easy on the vinegar. Peel about one carrot per person and chop into rounds. Boil them in salted water for a few minutes, and drain. You want the raw crunch gone but stay away from mushy territory. In a frying pan heat a very decent glug of very decent extra virgin olive oil and very gently fry some chopped garlic (about one big clove for every three carrots). Be careful as you are just infusing the oil and taking the raw edge off the garlic. Once this has happened remove from the heat and let the oil cool slightly. Season it and add a splash of white wine vinegar (go easy, you can always add more) and a handful of chopped parsley. Check the taste. Add the carrots and mix well.

Serve as part of a spread, it would go with tapas, a more Middle Eastern mezze platter, or even cold meats, anti pasti style. Don't forget some nice bread to soak up the heavenly garlicky oil, and suddenly you could be on holiday.