Because of the diverse nature of the many different restaurants and chefs Brian Henry has worked under he is highly proficient at a wide range of cuisines.

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Gastronomically yours,

Carrots – A bowl of Liquid Sunshine

 

Archaeologists have found traces of fossilized carrot pollen that is carbon dated back some tens of millions of years. They have been a cultivated staple ingredient in our diet since 8th century BC with their seeds having been found in a number of sites around the world.

Most of us have never seen carrot seeds as we harvest this biennial at the end of its first growing season, if left in the ground over winter which is a natural place to store them the plant will produce seeds in its second year.

There are a number of varieties of carrots that vary in colour. The purple and black varieties were developed in Asia; yellow and white carrots were cultivated throughout Europe and the Mediterranean. Factors that influence the carrots colour include the amount of lycopene and beta-carotene found within the carrots cells. Other members of the carrot family include parsnips, parsley and the South American Arracacha, which to some is believed to be far superior in taste than our North American carrot variety.

The common orange carrots that we most frequently use originated in Holland when Dutch farmers cross bred yellow and red varieties of carrots during the 1500’s. This variety of carrot is also called a carotene carrot as it is the richest known vegetable source of vitamin A. It is also the sweetest carrot with a concentration of 5% naturally occurring sugars.

These carrots have been further hybridized over the past century to produce shorter fat carrots with a blunt root tip. It is believed that this makes for a better carrot that reduces the waste encountered in the long tapered root of ancestral varieties.

It must be noted that it is necessary to peel the outer layer of carrots as this skin is quite bitter and contains a concentration phenolic compounds which if not removed can turn carrots or the foods they are prepared with an unsightly brown colour.

True baby carrots have some of their green tops still intact when you purchase them. Although they may appear cute they are not as sweet as a mature carrot as they are harvested earlier and have a higher amount of the aforementioned bitter surface area in relation to its size.

The pre-peeled baby carrots found in stores today are actually cut from larger mature carrots. You may notice a harmless mould-like white fuzz on their surface. This fuzz is caused by the outer layer of cells being damaged and then dehydrating during processing.

Locally grown Ontario carrots are available year round, in most grocery stores. Some gardeners choose to leave their carrots in the ground year round and harvest them throughout the winter months as needed.

I like my carrots raw or steamed with butter but on typical Canadian winter days I like to eat my carrots in liquid form as a soup because it’s like eating a bowl of liquid sunshine. If you feel that carrot ginger soup has been over played; then why not vary the liquid you choose to use for the broth or the spices used to season it as you can easily create many variations of the following recipe for Curried carrot soup. By substituting coconut milk or orange juice for the heavy cream you can create some Caribbean flavours and a hint of cilantro, cinnamon or nutmeg will enhance the carrots aromatic nature.


Carrot Ginger Soup

2 lbs carrots peeled and coarsely chopped

1 medium red onion diced

2 Tbsp canola oil

1 tbsp curry powder

1/8 tsp. cinnamon

1 Tbsp of minced fresh ginger

2 cloves finely minced garlic

3 cups water or vegetable broth

Salt and pepper to taste

One-half cup heavy cream

In a soup pot heat the oil over medium-heat. Add the carrots and onions. Stirring frequently, cook this mixture until the onions become soft and clear, but do not allow them to brown. Next add the curry powder, cinnamon, ginger and garlic and cook a further 2-3 minutes to release their fragrant aromas. Add the water and bring pot to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until carrots are soft and breaking apart. This will take about 30 minutes. Remove from heat and using an immersion blender puree the soup to a smooth creamy consistency. If you do not have an immersion blender puree the soup in blender in small batches. If needed you can thin the soup with additional water or broth as needed. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

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