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It is believed that the carrot was cultivated by the Egyptian, Greek and Roman civilisations, with the earliest known occurrence being in Afghanistan at around 5000 BC. Throughout the Middle Ages, carrots were produced in a variety of colours, including purple, black, white, green, yellow and red. Curiously, the first recorded cultivation of an orange carrot didn't occur until the 16th Century.
The carrot was first widely cultivated in Britain during the reign of Elizabeth I, after it had been introduced by Flemish refugees. By the time of Queen Victoria, the humble carrot regularly appeared on the nation's collective dinner-plate. All the recipes within this entry were used, cooked and eaten by the Victorians1, and contain carrots. As well as universally containing carrots, they are all suitable for vegetarians.
Carrot soup makes for an excellent starter, but many Victorians would have used to it as a quick, economical main course dish. The optional addition of a small glass of sherry always helps give each serving that certain je ne sais quoi2.
- 400g carrots
- 50g butter
- One onion
- 750ml stock seasoning
- One teaspoon of brown sugar
- 75g rice
- 500ml milk
- One glass medium sherry
- Parsley (chopped)
- Chop up all the carrots and onion, and gently cook in butter for two or three minutes.
- Add the stock, and season with sugar, salt and pepper according to taste.
- Add the rice, and cook until everything is tender.
- Add the milk and use a liquidiser to get everything nice and smooth. If you don't own a liquidiser, then pouring the mixture through a sieve will suffice.
- Add the sherry and garnish with parsley before serving.
Candied carrots taste nice on their own, but can also be served as a side dish with many savoury meals. The idea of adding golden syrup to carrots, and then eating them as part of a main course may seem a little strange, but the Victorians did it.
- Slice the carrots length-wise, and then boil them in salt water until nice and tender, and then drain.
- In a separate pan, melt the syrup and butter together.
- Add the carrots to the syrup and butter, and cook for 10 minutes.
- Sprinkle some chopped mint or parsley over the top, and serve. A tablespoon of cream may also be added, according to personal preference.
In Victorian times, the upper classes would often eat very grand, fattening dishes. However, very few people were well-off, and the food eaten by the masses was often very simple, and cheap. Carrot pudding is a dish belonging to the latter food genre.
- One large carrot
- Approximately one tablespoon biscuit powder
- Three or four sweet biscuits
- Four egg yolks
- Two egg whites
- 570ml3 cream, either raw or scalded
- A few teaspoons ratafia4
- A quarter of a nutmeg (grated)
- 60g sugar
- Boil the large carrot until tender, and then mash it in a mortar.
- When the carrot is suitably mashed5, add the remaining ingredients, and stir the mixture together.
- Bake all the ingredients in a shallow dish. Times vary wildly for Victorian dishes, but 45 minutes at 180°C should do it.
Many people view the carrot as an unlikely preserve ingredient, but carrot jam is surprisingly palatable. With a tangy taste, and an orange colour not dissimilar to marmalade, carrot jam would have been an occasional Victorian tea-time treat.
- Four cups6 of chopped carrots. Be sure to chop the carrots up nice and small; this will help bring out the carrots' flavours a lot easier.
- Three cups sugar
- Three sliced lemons
- One teaspoon cinnamon
- A half teaspoon cloves
- Add all the ingredients into a saucepan, and simmer slowly at a gentle heat. It is recommended that you stir the ingredients constantly, especially at the earlier stages of the cooking.
- After about 20 minutes, the carrots should eventually begin to soften, and the jam will become thick. To make the jam smooth, put everything in a liquidiser and blend for a few minutes. Obviously, the Victorians didn't have liquidisers, but the results are far more pleasing using this method.