Top Carrot

 fig. a:  carrots

fig. a:  carrots

This recipe--Vadouvan-spiced "Tandoori" Carrots--appeared on our radar months and months ago, courtesy of Bon Appétit, but I only got around to making it this summer.  It showed up in a winter issue as a recipe you could make with wintertime root vegetables, but it's a carrot recipe that benefits from using the freshest, prettiest carrots available--like those in the photograph above--so, really, it's ideal for the current harvest season.  It's also an incredibly versatile recipe.  You could certainly serve it as part of a South Asian menu, but I'd have no qualms serving it in a wide range of contexts, including even an upcoming Thanksgiving meal.  Most importantly, it's a remarkably flavourful and attractive recipe, one that takes roasted carrots to a higher plane.

If you've never heard of Vadouvan, it's a spice blend that's said to be a product of French colonial rule in India--one that typically is built with a base of shallots.  If you can't locate Vadouvan where you live--I wasn't able to track it down in Montreal--it's fairly easy to make, and the flavours are intoxicating, especially if you're able to score fresh curry leaves.*  You might very well find yourself making spiced potatoes, roasted cauliflower, dal, and other dishes with it, in addition to these carrots.  That's what I ended up doing, and every variation was a hit.

 fig. b:  spices

fig. b:  spices

Vadouvan Spice Mix

 2 pounds onions, cut into 1-inch pieces

1 pound shallots, halved

12 garlic cloves, peeled

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds

1 tablespoon thinly sliced fresh curry leaves (optional, but highly recommended)

1 tablespoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground cardamom

1 teaspoon brown mustard seeds

3/4 teaspoon turmeric

1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon hot red-pepper flakes

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

Special equipment:  this recipe calls for using parchment paper, but I highly recommend using a Silpat silicone baking mat, if you have one.

Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle.

Pulse onions in 3 batches in a food processor until very coarsely chopped (there may be a few large pieces remaining), transferring to a bowl. Repeat with shallots, then garlic.

Heat oil in a deep 12-inch heavy nonstick skillet over high heat until it shimmers, then sauté onions, shallots, and garlic (stir often) until golden and browned in spots, 25 to 30 minutes

Grind fenugreek seeds in grinder or with mortar and pestle. Add to onion mixture along with remaining ingredients, 1 tablespoon salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper and stir until combined.

Transfer to a parchment-paper-lined (or Silpat-lined) large 4-sided sheet pan and spread as thinly and evenly as possible. Bake, stirring occasionally with a skewer or spatula to separate onions, until well browned and barely moist, 1 to 1 1/4 hours.

Note:  This recipe makes a lot of Vadouvan spice mix, but it's delicious, it's versatile, and it keeps well in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.

 fig. c:  spicy carrots

fig. c:  spicy carrots

Now that you have your spice blend, you can actually make the "Tandoori" carrots.  Don't worry, you don't need a tandoor.  You just need a hot oven.  The "Tandoori" part comes from the fact that the technique replicates the manner in which other Tandoori dishes are made, like Tandoori chicken.

Vadouvan-spiced "Tandoori" Carrots

2 tablespoons Vadouvan

2 garlic cloves finely grated, divided

½ cup plain whole-milk Greek yogurt, divided

5 tablespoons olive oil, divided

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 pound small carrots, tops trimmed, scrubbed or peeled

¼ teaspoon ground turmeric

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Very coarsely chopped cilantro leaves with tender stems and lemon wedges (for serving)

Preheat oven to 425°. Mix Vadouvan, half of garlic, ¼ cup yogurt, and 3 Tbsp. oil in a large bowl until smooth; season with salt and pepper. Add carrots and toss to coat. Roast on a rimmed baking sheet in a single layer, turning occasionally, until tender and lightly charred in spots, 25–30 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat turmeric and remain­ing 2 Tbsp. oil in a small skillet over medium-low, swirling skillet, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat.

Whisk lemon juice, remaining garlic, and remaining ¼ cup yogurt in a small bowl; season with salt and pepper.

Place carrots (along with the crunchy bits on the baking sheet) on a platter. Drizzle with yogurt mixture and turmeric oil and top with cilantro. Serve with lemon wedges.

The finished product is a work of beauty:  sweet, spicy, tart, and savoury, with wonderful textures and vivid colours to boot.  You might serve these carrots as a side dish, but, if you do, don't be surprised if they steal the show.  They're really that good.


p.s.  If you can't find Vadouvan near you, and making your own batch seems like too much trouble, just come up with your own curried shallot blend by frying some up in a pan, and try the rest of the recipe.  Everything else about this recipe is dead easy, and the method is sound.

* I got mine at Marché Oriental, on boulevard St-Denis, and they were fresher than fresh.