Striving for simplicity in weeknight cooking doesn’t have to mean simple flavours. For me, every meal must count and every dish must deliver on taste and heart. This recipe shows how one humble ingredient, carrots, can spearhead an easy-to-prepare, flavour-bursting dish.
Using carrots from top to tail reduces waste and also challenges our taste buds. Carrot tops are herbaceous and earthy, with just a hint of carrot flavour, and add a surprising herbal accent to salads and sauces like pesto and hummus. For dinner prep, a bunch of carrots can go a long way.
The lush green flavour of carrot tops makes them the perfect addition to chimichurri. On a recent trip to Argentina, upon busy tables replete with carne asada (grilled beef), Malbec wine and oversized Coke bottles (an Argentinian tradition, I’m told), I salivated over the jars of chimichurri, herbier and heavier than usual. Dramatically tinged with paprika, and embellished with chunky chopped herbs and tiny specks of tomato, this Argentinian version of the sauce brought an exciting brightness to my plate of vegetables. In my twist-on-chimichurri recipe below, carrot tops are a lively replacement for the more traditional parsley.
This dish of roasted baby carrots with carrot top chimichurri, served on a bed of smashed white beans, comes together in about 30 minutes, and effortlessly shows off the flavour possibilities of simple ingredients. The recipe comfortably serves two, but if you are cooking for more, just up your carrot and bean count. No need to increase the amount of ingredients for chimichurri, as this recipe makes about one cup, more than enough for extra mouths. Keep extra chimichurri in an airtight jar in the fridge for up to 14 days. The chimichurri can also be made ahead to allow the flavours to meld.
Roasted baby carrots with carrot top chimichurri and smashed white beans
Serves 2, or more if eaten as a snack
1 bunch baby (Dutch) carrots, trimmed and tops reserved
extra virgin olive oil
1 small clove garlic
1 can cannellini beans, drained (drained weight 280g)
1 tsp lemon juice or red wine vinegar
handful of slivered almonds
sea salt and black pepper
Carrot top chimichurri (makes about 1 cup)
1 cup finely chopped carrot greens
1 tbsp finely chopped oregano (or 1 tsp dried oregano)
1 small tomato, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp paprika
¼ tsp smoked paprika
½ tsp chilli flakes
¾ cup good extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
sea salt and black pepper
Preheat your oven to 200C.
Scrub the carrots well and pat dry. Lay them out on a baking tray and drizzle with olive oil. Season with sea salt and black pepper, and roast for 20-25 minutes, until tender and golden (this time may vary depending on the size of your carrots).
To make your chimichurri, place the chopped carrot tops in a small bowl. Add the oregano, tomato, garlic, cumin, both paprikas, chilli flakes, olive oil and vinegar. Stir to combine. Season well with 1-2 teaspoons of sea salt and a good turn of black pepper. Taste and adjust seasoning to your liking.
For the smashed beans, place a small clove of garlic in a mortar, sprinkle with some sea salt and pound it into a paste. Add the beans and pound until half of them are broken up but the consistency is still chunky. Stir through 2 tablespoons of olive oil (or more), and season with sea salt and black pepper.
To serve, place the smashed beans on to a plate and top with the roasted carrots. Spoon over some of the chimichurri and scatter with slivered almonds.