The crazy vegetables
Their tendrills and leaf-crowns,
In the sub-soil
With its red mustaches
From ‘Ode To The Artichoke’ by Pable Neruda
Pablo Neruda was one of the first poets that I learned to love, and one that I still love to this day. I have several of his collections sitting on my book shelf, tattered and well-thumbed, as all good books are. A prolific poet, his work is considerable. He is probably best known for his love poems and sonnets which are, undoubtedly, some of the finest you will ever read.
Lately, though, I’ve been enamoured by his odes to food. Though not love poems in the strictest sense, they ring with the same sense of thought and care and dedication that do all of Neruda’s work. They celebrate the extraordinary within the everyday, the grace and grandeur within the humble. Take this line from his ‘Ode to Salt’:
of the unknown, shifting
byways of the foam.
Dust of the sea, in you
the tongue receives a kiss
from ocean night
Today, the carrot. One of my favourite vegetables since I can remember. I eat them raw and crunchy, on their own or dipped in hummus, or peanut butter. Grated through salad, or baked into spiced luscious carrot cake. Steamed in stir fry, or sliced paper-thin for Moroccan-style salad. But the best way? Roasted until almost burnt; sweet and sticky.
This Roasted Carrots, Crispy Lentils & Spicy Yoghurt is a variation on this beetroot dish, and is something I like to throw together for lunch time when I’ve got a little extra time and feel like something a little extra delicious. It is full of spice and kick and tang. You can’t go wrong.
Roasted Carrots with Crispy Lentils & Spicy Yoghurt
This dish is easy to customise. You could replace part, or all, of the carrots with parsnips, beetroot, or sweet potato. If you prefer a little less heat in your spice, remove the seeds from the chilli before making the paste. And if you have any leftover crispy lentils, throw them into tomorrow’s salad for a crunchy kick, or sprinkle them over tonight’s soup.
8 – 12 x small carrots
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp paprika, hot
1/4 tsp sea salt
Generous glug of olive oil
1/2 cup de puy lentils
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp paprika, hot
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 cup Greek yoghurt
3 x red birds eye chilli
2 – 3 cloves garlic
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/2 cup coriander leaves
1/2 cup mint leaves
Extra-virgin olive oil, to serve
A small handful of roughly torn fresh coriander leaves, to serve
Put the lentils along with one and a half cups of cold water into a pot, cover, and bring to the boil. Turn down to a simmer and cook for 20 – 25 minutes, until the lentils are tender but not mushy. Drain.
Pre-heat oven to 200° celsius/400° fahrenheit.
Remove the green tops from the carrots and halve lengthways. Toss them with a glug of olive oil, the cumin, coriander, paprika and salt. Lay in a single layer on a baking tray and roast for approx. 30 minutes (turning once halfway through), or until crisp at the edges.
In a bowl combine the cooked lentils with the tablespoon of olive oil, cayenne pepper, turmeric, cayenne pepper, cumin seeds, coriander, and a pinch of salt. Spread in a single layer onto a tray lined with baking paper and bake for 30 minutes (tossing halfway through), until the lentils are crispy. Set aside.
Using a mortar and pestle (or a small food processor) combine the chillis, garlic, cumin, coriander and mint leaves, and salt into a paste. Stir through the yogurt.
Divide the spicy yoghurt between two shallow bowls or plates and top with the roasted carrots, crispy lentils, a drizzle of olive oil, and the torn coriander leaves. Eat immediately.