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A tale of two carrots
Cooking without recipes or common sense?
‘Strewth, look at the size of that thing!’ It’s not something you find yourself saying very often before 9am on a Saturday morning at a farmer’s market. But this specimen poking its head out above all others was truly remarkable. It was also a pointed reminder of how confusing cooking can be if you blindly follow a set of instructions: a poster child for why things often don’t look like the picture or simply don’t ‘work’.
Consider for example a soffritto, the traditional flavour base for meat ragù and a thousand other Italian hand gestures. It’s just carrot, celery and onion, softened in oil and almost always described something like:
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion
1 large carrot
A stalk of celery
Instructions: finely chop everything and cook off on a medium-low heat until it’s soft and fragrant.
Perfect. Well it would be if Mother Nature believed that ‘size counts’, as major grocery retailers do. But she doesn’t. She does what she wants, making ‘large’ a rather subjective, often useless, descriptor.
It’s why we always add relativity or weight to the moveable feast cooked up by words like small, medium and large. As we’ve written before, the ratio is normally 2:1:1 which works perfectly if you use a medium to large onion because when chopped it’s roughly double the amount of one carrot and one long stick of celery. Start picturing things like that and it’s easier to deal with the vagaries of nature.
Take Exhibits ‘A’ and ‘B’ pictured above. ‘A’ is what grocery stores might call ‘large’: a perfectly respectable 130g. ‘B’, by anyone’s reckoning, is an absolute whopper, weighing in at 430g, longer than our 29cm chef’s knife. In short, it’s as much a punchline to a dirty joke as it is a root vegetable.
Yes, they are both ‘a carrot’, but that’s the sort of logic someone with a drinking problem might use to justify the downing of a 6-litre Methuselah of Champagne and then claiming they only had ‘a bottle’. More pertinent, imagine how sweet, your final dish would be from all that carrot.
As a friend commented when we unleashed the beast from our basket over a post-provisioning cup of coffee, ‘Jeez – you’d have to use a whole box of onions to make a soffritto with that!’ We rest our case, M’lord….
In the super-sized carrot there was a whole carrot salad or soup for four, as each take around 500g of the vegetable – and a soup is what became of it. Find the soup (for last week’s croutons) below and look out for a much-loved family meal built on soffritto coming your way next week.
The pdf below is designed for mobile, just download and view on your phone.