Normally when writing for food to glow I have the radio for company, the mix of music and chat a metronome for my typing. But I can’t do it today. I am a coward. I just can’t listen to any more news coming out of Paris, Syria and Kenya. My fingers feel heavy and my heart even more so. You feel that way too, I know.
It seems frivolous writing about food, especially going on about a holiday-focused recipe. But I suppose the trick is to keep going as normal, being alert but not alarmed. Those with hatred where hearts should be will not win.
I have a feeling that the upcoming US Thanksgiving celebrations will take on even more significance this year. Those of us fortunate enough to be born into relative safety and comfort are grateful for so many things – not least being able to gather as a family and sit down to eat together, whether a sumptuous meal with fine wines, or food prepared with the contents of a food bank box. And – without wishing to stray into political territory – on this side of the world, the men, woman and children making the most perilous journeys of modern times, despite having nothing in many cases but the clothes on their backs, will be grateful that they have come to countries where liberty and equality still shape our lives. Our lucky, lucky lives.
Be safe, be grateful and be happy – wherever you are. xx
PS The next recipe will be my take on the starter I enjoyed at the Waitrose #MakesChristmas party.
Rainbow Carrot, Taleggio and Hazelnut Tarte Tatin
Normal orange supermarket carrots are of course fine here, and feel free to change out the pleasantly pungent taleggio cheese for fruity, buttery fontina, crumbly, lemony goat’s cheese, gooey, mild mozzarella, or – if vegan – skip the cheese all together. I have ditched the usual vinegar-tinged caramel sauce for thick balsamic vinegar, but here is a recipe from Donna Hay using the more usual method. My carrot tarte tatin recipe is easily doubled, or adjusted to the pan you wish to use. I used a 10″ cast iron skillet.
This would make a glorious holiday vegetarian or vegan main course or, sliced more thinly, an appetizer or starter.
500g rainbow or orange carrots, scrubbed and lightly peeled
3 tbsp best quality (and thick) balsamic vinegar, divided use
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
Good pinch of salt and pepper
25g butter (just under 2 tbsp) or coconut oil
4 tbsp water
2 tsp fine sugar, optional (I didn’t use)
75g hazelnuts or cobnuts, toasted and chopped
1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
200g taleggio cheese (see header note), chopped into pieces
1 sheet of ready-rolled puff pastry (vegan or all-butter)
You will need: a heavy-bottomed non-stick skillet or small rectangular cake tin; 1 baking sheet
Preheat your oven to 200C/400F.
Slice the carrots into even pieces about 1 inch thick. Mix together 1 tablespoon of the balsamic vinegar, the oil and the mustard in a medium bowl, add the carrots, salt and pepper, and mix well to coat. Slide these onto the baking sheet, cover with foil and bake in the oven for 45 minutes.
During the last few minutes of the carrots baking/steaming, place the butter in the skillet and put the skillet in the oven. Remove the skillet when the butter is bubbling and pour in the remaining vinegar, sugar if using, and the water, mix quickly with a whisk or wooden spoon.
Place the carrots, cut side down, on the buttery syrup, dot on the cheese, and sprinkle over the hazelnuts and thyme. Lay over the pastry, cutting to fit the shape of your chosen pan. It doesn’t need to be big enough to cover the pan’s diameter. Now tuck the edges of the pastry around the carrots, like you are tucking in a toddler – cosy. I deliberately don’t pack the carrots into the edge of the skillet so that I can tuck the pastry without everything sticking to the side of the pan. It seems less messy this way once the whole thing is upended, tarte tatin style.
Bake the carrot tarte tatin in the oven for 20 minutes, until the pastry is golden and risen in flaky layers. Use a spatula to carefully loosen the sticky underneath before placing a large serving plate over top and carefully inverting. Serve with extra thyme leaves and chopped hazelnuts if you wish.