Recipe: Spicy Carrot Pudding
I’m a child of the ’70s. If Bugs Bunny says it, believe it.*
Carrots are the first thing I ever grew from seed. My parents were big landscape gardeners, but not much into food gardening. My mother planted cucumbers on the south side of our house one year, and the vines actually climbed up the house and under the siding – anything goes for heat-loving plants in the Pacific Northwest. Some years she grew corn, and almost always pumpkins and tomatoes – but it was too haphazard to be called a garden.
But when I was about 5, Mom helped me plant carrots under the beauty bark, in between the rhododendrons and azaleas she and my dad prized. At first, the carrots seemed doomed – any time I saw any kind of leaf poking above ground, I’d pull it up, wanting to see how the carrot was doing. Not the exactly the recommended method.
But in the end, I did harvest about 10 gnarly looking bright orange carrots. Way more interesting that the ones we bought from the grocery store. And I ate them all, raw, out in the yard.
Sadly, it wasn’t a transformational experience that turned me into a gardener. And for years after I discovered my passion for cooking, I still thought of carrots as a part of a whole – the color component in mirepoix; a supporting actor, not a star.
I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Carrots were first domesticated in Afghanistan 2000 years ago. Everyone knows carrots are great for you – and they are one of the sweetest vegetables out there. There is UK based website called the World Carrot Museum where you can find a myriad of carrot facts, trivia and nutritional information. Even my dogs love them – especially cooked carrots. In fact, this is the third post I’ve written about carrots.
Today I savor any dish that brings out the essence of a carrot – usually something with a bit of sweetness, and an undertone of acidity.
Something like this pudding. It’s a favorite of mine any time there are carrots at the farmers market. Add some sugar to the recipe (and remove the hot peppers), top it with a tart berry sauce and you’ve got dessert. Serve it over greens with vinaigrette, and now it’s an appetizer. Or you can eat it with a spoon straight out of the oven from the ramekin.
If you want the texture to be uniform, peel the carrots before you steam them. Unpeeled, the pudding is never perfectly smooth – which is fine with me. I also like the earthiness of the peel – without it the dish is takes on air of elegance – crossing the line from pudding to flan. But the real carrot flavor is lost.
I’ll take flavor over elegance any day.
*Bugs actually said this in 1951.