Wednesday, 18 May 2016
Roasted carrots with smoked cod’s roe, wild garlic and pangrattato
Between December-February, cod are fully gearing up for spawning and are heavy with roe. As a result, during those months the markets flood with these giant, slightly alien-looking lobes. I have to admit that I’m not a massive fan, but for a certain fragment of our customer base, there ain’t no party like fresh cod’s roe party. They start asking over availability towards the end of every summer, getting progressively more excited as the weeks get closer. For the ninety five percent of other customers, these weird and wonderful objects provoke pointing and squirmy, scared faces. But those patient few, their eyes light up and they dance home with a heavy bag of fish eggs to boil up and eat on toast. Maybe next winter…
Despite my clear scepticism of fresh cod’s roe, this changes completely upon the introduction of smoke. After some gentle curing, the roe is preserved and cooked over hot smoke. A total transformation occurs; the flavour becomes rich and intense, with a soft, smooth texture. Sliced and fried in butter it is magical, but whipped into a puree and used as a taramasalata-esque condiment is really where it’s at.
The sweetness of carrots make them the perfect companion for the strong, salty dip. Although the humble carrot is often used as a base ingredient in many recipes, here I wanted to showcase its flavour and versatility by preparing it a few separate ways. Of course if you’re strapped for time of simply want to shorten the cooking time, a few roasted or even raw carrots will still be delicious dunked into the roe.
A little pangrattato and a few wild garlic leaves finish everything off. Pangrattato is one of the great cooking words, like spanakopita and, well, taramasalata. It also adds that wonderfully addictive crunch, which is very welcome to contrast the other soft elements of the dish. And as wild garlic is seemingly everywhere at the moment, it seems rude not to include it here.
8 small-medium carrots, peeled and trimmed
For the carrot puree:
3 large carrots, thinly sliced
3 tbsp olive oil
1 lemon, juice only
For the smoked cod’s roe:
150g smoked cod’s roe
2 thick slices of white bread, crusts removed
1 lemon, zest and juice
1 garlic clove, grated
3 tbsp water
100ml olive oil
For the pickled carrots:
1 lemon, juice only
For the pangrattato:
1 thick slice of white bread
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp onion seeds
½ a lemon, zest only
6-8 wild garlic leaves
Start by whipping the smoked cod’s roe. Chop the smoked roe roughly, then tip into a food processor with the grated garlic, lemon zest and juice, seasoning and the torn up bread. Blitz until well combined. Pour in the water to loosen mixture up. With the motor still running, slowly pour in the oil, until the puree is thick and emulsified. Taste and adjust the seasoning and lemon, then spoon into a plastic squeezy bottle. Set aside.
To make the pickled carrots, use a vegetable peeler to slice the carrots into thin ribbons. Arrange in a small bowl, add a little salt, and squeeze over the lemon juice. Toss to coat. Set aside for at least 20 minutes to lightly pickle.
Toast the bread for the pangrattato really well, then transfer to a food processor and blitz to create coarse breadcrumbs. Pour 1 tbsp of olive oil into a frying pan and bring to a medium-high heat. Tip in the breadcrumbs along with the fennel seeds, onion seeds and lemon zest. Fry for a couple of minutes, tossing frequently, until the crumbs are golden brown. Pour into a bowl.
Preheat the oven to 200⁰C.
Thinly slice the carrots for the puree and transfer to a small saucepan. Cover with boiling water and season well with salt. Bring back to the boil and then simmer for 5-6 minutes, or until cooked all the way through. Drain the liquid and add the carrots to a food processor. Squeeze in the lemon juice and a little seasoning, and blend until smooth. With the engine still running, slowly pour in the olive oil, until it has been fully emulsified.
Arrange the remaining carrots on a roasting tray and season with salt and pepper. Toss with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, then slide into the oven for 20-30 minutes, or until lightly coloured on the outside and tender in the middle.
Serve by arranging 3-4 carrots onto each dish. Spoon on some of the puree and add a generous blob of the smoked roe puree. Top with some of the pickled carrots and pangrattato. Finish with a few wild garlic leaves and a drizzle of olive oil.