The Romans were clever with vegetables, experimenting in ways which now seem very sophisticated. As with many other ingredients, they saw the vegetable as the starting point for embellishment with sauces, spices, wine and other adornments in any number of ways--frying, boiling, pureeing. They shunned simple cooking and the pure taste of vegetables, and their inventiveness is reminiscent of the revival of English cooking, following the vogue for foreign travel and exotic restaurants. The carrot, like many others, fell victim to the fashion for using spices.
However, this is a simple carrot and onion puree, spiced with cumin and lemon juice. It is a versatile accompaniment to many roast and other meals; but it is also a much-appreciated vegetarian main course.
serves 4 - 6
175 g (6 oz) plain shortcrust pastry
25 g (1 oz) butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 onions, finely chopped
550 g (1 1/4 Ib) carrots, cut into short thin strips
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 heaped tablespoon cumin powder
2 teaspoons caster sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper
150 ml (1/4 pint) double cream
1 egg, plus 1 egg yolk
1. Line a shallow 23cm (9 in) round or 29 1/2 x 20 cm (11 3/4 x 8 in) rectangular tart tin with the pastry and pre-bake or bake blind.
2. Pre-heat the oven to 200°C (400°F) Gas 6.
3. Heat the butter and oil in a heavy-bottomed frying pan, add the onions and fry very gently for about 10 minutes or until soft, stirring occasionally.
4. Meanwhile, put the carrot strips into a colander, place over a pan of boiling water and steam for 10 - 15 minutes or until the carrot pieces are soft. Drain and add to the softened onion in the frying pan. Add the lemon juice, cumin, sugar, salt and pepper, give the mixture a good stir and heat gently for 2 minutes.
5. Put the mixture into a food processor and add sufficient cream to make it work smoothly. Whizz for a few seconds until blended, then put into a large bowl. Set aside.
6. In another bowl, lightly whisk the egg and egg yolk together, then add the remaining cream. Add this to the carrot and onion mixture, mix well and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Spoon into the pre-baked pastry case and bake in the oven for 25 minutes or until a knife inserted into the centre of the tart comes out clean.
7. Serve hot or warm, either fresh out of the oven or re-heated later. COOK'STIP -This tart will serve 8-10 as a starter or vegetable dish.