I would love to be able to say that this dish came into being after a delightful stroll around a sun-dappled farmers market – with me looking refined and lovely, carrying a handwoven wicker basket full of earthy, heritage roots in one hand and an almond milk matcha latte the other. It didn’t. It was a Wednesday, it was raining (which meant my hair had assumed its go-to mix of early 1970s Jackson 5 and drowned rat) and the carrots in question were a large bag from a supermarket, reduced to 30 pence and shoved unceremoniously into my sports bag to be lugged home. I don’t even own a basket.
I know. Naughty food blogger. But seriously, a kilo of very good condition carrots reduced to such a paltry amount is impossible to ignore and I’m sure even the most wholesome, whole-food heroes occasionally nip to the supermarket on the way home from work. Anyway, the salad was lovely. I teamed a julienne of carrot with mixed seeds, a light, lemon and mustard seed dressing and pickled caper leaves. I think everyone is familiar with capers and their chubby caperberry cousins but the pickled leaves of the plant are delicious. They are more gentle in flavour than the berries or buds and are perfect in salads, chopped through tart sauces, like salsa verde, or served on their own to be picked at alongside Greek or Cypriot mezze.
Yes, I have no doubt that this would have tasted infinitely better with freshly pulled, heritage carrots, but it was tasty none the less and cost next to nothing (never something to be sniffed at – particularly by anyone renting in London!) Someday I hope always to be basket-wielding and serenely well-coiffed, but until then I’ll merrily plod on with my weekday dodgy afro and fuchsia Adidas number stuffed with bargains…because frankly nobody would appreciate me grumpily attempting the Northern line on a Wednesday evening with a large, muddy basket…
Carrot and Caper Leaf Salad
Pickled caper leaves are available in jars from most Greek, Cypriot or Turkish shops.
- 400g carrots
- 1/2 tbsp black mustard seeds
- small handful pickled caper leaves
- 2 tbsp mixed seeds (I used sesame, brown linseed and sunflower)
- 1 handful flat leaf parsley
- 1 large lemon
- 2 tbsp stock syrup – equal parts water and caster sugar heated until the sugar dissolves
- salt and pepper to taste
Peel the carrots and julienne them – great knife skill practice here, or alternatively use a mandoline, a julienne peeler or just coarsely grate. Place in a large bowl.
Pick the caper leaves and any small buds from the thick stems – be careful as the odd stem will have thorns. Add the leaves to the carrot bowl.
Heat a frying pan until hot and add the mixed seeds (reserving the mustard seeds). Keep the seeds moving by shaking the pan to avoid burning. Once the seeds are lightly toasted, remove from the heat and add them immediately to the carrots.
To make the dressing toast the mustard seeds in a hot pan until they start to pop and add them to the lemon juice and stock syrup. Mix well, season liberally and pour over the carrots. Finish with roughly chopped parsley.
The inspiration for this salad comes from the epic book ‘Blistering Barbecues’ by Kate and Nigel Tunnicliff and Tim Reeves. One of my all time favourites.