If you eat in a high-quality restaurant, or watch cooking competitions such as Masterchef you will be familiar with the smears and piped blobs of pureed vegetables used to add visual and flavour interest to dishes. It is easy to dismiss such fancies as pretentious twaddle that have no place on your own dining room table, but actually – used judiciously – they really can enhance a dish, and they are quite simple to make.
This particular puree is excellent alongside beef or salmon, and I have also used it as an accompaniment to cottage pie. Use it sparingly as it is quite intense, but delicious nonetheless.
Making things like this makes me smile, if only because I get to use the small copper sauce pans we picked up for a song at a car-boot sale!
RECIPE – serves 4 as a garnish
3 medium carrots, finely sliced
40g unsalted butter
100ml vegetable stock
1 star anise
2 tbsp double cream
Melt the butter in a large pan and add the carrots. Cook in the butter for five minutes until just starting to soften and the butter is thick and juicy with carrot, then add the vegetable stock and star anise. Simmer for fifteen minutes until the stock has reduced and the carrots are meltingly soft. Add the double cream, stir thoroughly then tip into a blender and blitz until it is very smooth.
Tip into a coarse sieve and push the puree through it into a small saucepan, this will ensure that the puree has no lumps. Check and adjust the seasoning, and warm thoroughly before serving.
How you serve it is up to you, if you are dressing a plate for a dinner party then let your imagination guide you, but if it is for a midweek dinner just serve a dollop on the side of the plate – there’s a time and a place for pretentious twaddle!