A different kind of spring



And so the spring of 2020 arrived. Only, I hadn't even noticed because all of us had been in quarantine for about 3 weeks at that point. I was on my way to the grocery store, one of the few places still open. The air was different, full of warmth and floral scent. The trees were lush green or blooming in white and pink. Suddenly my leather boots didn't feel appropriate anymore and I wished I had worn a lighter coat. Spring had arrived and I had missed it being at home.




Every year around this time the markets are buzzing in a new spring wave. Full of vibrant produce everyone has been waiting for after long winter months. The flower stands are starting to overflow with a lush selection and passing by them without buying anything is a hard thing to do. The days have already stretched longer and lighter and spending time outside feels like therapy after the grey and rain. But not this year. This year the world has stopped. The markets and flowers will have to wait until it's safe again. And until then we have to fight our every impulse to run outside and enjoy the sunshine, which feels like the most natural thing to do. Instead, we stay home and try to bring as much brightness and calm to our loved ones.



When thinking about my next post here, I had all sorts of plans and ideas but once the quarantine started, it quickly became clear that life had plans of its own and here we are. Instead of searching for the first spring vegetables and fruits on the market and coming up with ways for them to accompany my roast chicken, I turned to the basics. So, a roast chicken, as promised, a classic for a reason and it felt appropriate for springtime. And carrots. Now, these weren't planned but we always have them in our kitchen and now seemed like the perfect time to put them to use.




The recipes I'm sharing today are some of the meals I have made during these strange times. Simple yet delicious, using the ingredients available, not trying to be overly ambitious but rather practical. It's food we have prepared and eaten around our kitchen table together. With a lot of assistance, overseeing and tasting from my 3 year old, who during this time has mastered some new skills in the kitchen. One of them being peeling carrots, which I am very proud of. Hence, the inspiration for carrots three ways. So there you have it - a carrot tart with parmesan, carrot soup with a hint of ginger, carrot salad with citrus vinaigrette and my roast chicken. All simple home cooking, making most of the situation and substituting missing ingredients where possible, rather than going to the store to get them. This too shall pass, in the meantime we might as well make the most of the time spent home.



Carrot tart with parmesan


Ingredients :

1 sheet of rolled out shortcrust pastry

6-7 carrots (cleaned, peeled and sliced into halves if smaller or quarters if larger)

50g parmesan

1 tablespoon of crème fraîche

0.5 tablespoon of mustard (I used Dijon)

A bit of butter or egg wash for brushing the edges of the pastry

1 teaspoon of dried thyme

1-2 sprigs of rosemary

3 garlic cloves or 1 teaspoon of garlic powder.


Method:

Over medium heat, sauté the sliced carrots on the stove with olive oil and some garlic powder or 2-3 garlic cloves until they start slightly browning. Shape the pastry as wanted, round is perfectly fine as well, and fold the edges. In a small cup, fork together crème fraîche and mustard and spread it evenly with a spoon on the pastry, leaving only the folded edges dry. Cover the pastry with an even coating of parmesan and place the cut carrots as you like. Sprinkle over with thyme and add rosemary. Brush the edges of the pastry with butter or eggwash and cook in the oven at 180°C until the pastry is golden brown, around 20 minutes.





Carrot soup


Ingredients :

6-7 carrots (peeled and roughly chopped)

0.5 L milk (I used full fat)

1 tablepoon of butter (I used salted)

1 teaspoon of ground ginger (you can use fresh if you have some)

1 tablespoon of dried thyme

150 ml broth (I used chicken broth)


Method:

Over low/medium heat, add everything to the pot and let it cook under cover until the carrots are soft. The smaller you chop them, the faster they will be done. Stir occasionally and keep an eye on the heat, you don't want the milk to start boiling. Once ready, blitz everything into a puree. I didn't add any extra salt but season according to your liking. I topped mine with some roasted cauliflower but whatever you want to add for some extra texture will do and without is perfectly fine as well.




Carrot salad with citrus vinaigrette


Ingredients :

2-3 carrots (peeled and sliced into ribbons, I used the peeler for that)

A bunch of fresh parsley (or coriander if you have)

Juice of 2 lemons (or orange, lime, whatever you have at hand)

1 tablespoon of honey (no need to add when using oranges)

1 tablespoon of olive oil

1 tablespoon of pumpkin seeds (or any nuts or seeds)


Method :

In a bowl mix together, the citrus juice, honey and olive oil and drench the carrot ribbons inside. Mix gently with a spoon, you really want them completely covered and dripping with the vinaigrette. Place them on the serving plate, add the fresh parsley (just teared roughly with hands, no need to chop) and top everything with the seeds/nuts of your choice. You can pour the rest of the vinaigrette over everything.



Roast chicken


Ingredients :

1 whole chicken

1 lemon (cut into halves)

A bunch of rosemary

A bunch of thyme

10 shallots (peeled but  left whole)

1 garlic (broken down into cloves but leave the skins on)

Salt

Pepper


Method:

Take the chicken out of the fridge at least 30 minutes before cooking, as you would with any meat. Pat the chicken dry with a paper towel, make sure you do both sides of the chicken and every angle to get a crispy skin. Now sprinkle over with salt and pepper and don't be shy, this will create that beautiful crisp. Give it a good massage to make sure all of the chicken is covered evenly. Stuff the chicken with both halves of the lemon and 3-4 shallots, as much as fits inside. Now it's time to truss the chicken with a kitchen thread to make sure it cooks evenly. Before you put the chicken in the oven dish, at the bottom of the dish put a bunch of herbs, rosemary and thyme, add the rest of the shallots and the garlic cloves too. It's almost as if you are preparing a nest, make sure everything is in the center of the dish, so once you put the chicken on top, it will elevate the chicken from the dish a bit. Once the chicken is in the dish, add some herbs on top and in the oven it goes, at 230°C for an hour. After you take the chicken out of the oven, let it rest a bit before cutting into it, around 10 minutes.




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