This spicy vegan dish doubles as a starter or side
Can vegan rock? We’ll let this dish answer for itself.
It’s colorful and easy to make. And it’s equally tasty at room temperature or chilled, so you can make it ahead of time.
And don’t tell your vegan friends, but it also goes great with meat or chicken (serve it with fried or roast chicken, grilled or barbecued meat or fish, or even tacos or a burger).
So feel free to use this dish as you like. We won’t say a word.
Recipe: Indian Carrot Salad with Mustard Seeds
For this dish, mustard seeds are, well, a must. And because this is an Indian dish, that means you’ll need brown or black mustard seeds—not the yellow kind more commonly used in Western cooking. If your supermarket doesn’t stock them, you can find them at any Indian grocery. Or just try the web, where they’re readily available.
Black mustard seeds have somewhat better flavor, but they’re hard to find (and can be expensive). Brown mustard seeds are easier to get, and are what we used in this dish.
We adapted this recipe from our favorite Indian cookbook, Madhur Jaffrey’s Indian Cooking (the 1982 version written to accompany a BBC TV program; now out of print, alas).
Prep time for this recipe is 5 to 10 minutes. Cooking and assembly add another 5 minutes.
This recipe serves 4 as a starter, 6 to 8 as a side dish.
- 5 to 6 medium carrots (to taste: exact quantity not critical)
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt (see Notes)
- 1 to 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (we think more is better in this dish, but 1 tablespoon is OK)
- 1 tablespoon whole black or brown mustard seeds (not the more common yellow mustard seeds; see headnote)
- ¼ to ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper (very optional; to taste)
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice (or to taste)
- lemon twist for garnish (optional)
- Scrub and peel the carrots. Grate them coarsely (a 4-sided grater works; better still, use the grating attachment on a food processor). Pour the grated carrots into a medium-sized bowl, and add the salt. Toss to combine.
- Place a small frying pan over medium stovetop heat. When the pan is hot, add the oil. When the oil is heated (it’ll shimmer), add the mustard seeds. When the seeds pop (this will take under a minute, usually more like 10 to 20 seconds), pour the seeds and oil into the bowl with the shredded carrots. Add the cayenne pepper and the lemon juice, then toss together. Taste, and add more lemon juice and/or salt if needed.
- At this point, you can either refrigerate the salad (in an airtight container), or leave it at room temperature if you plan to serve it within the next 3 to 4 hours. We usually taste the salad again right before serving and adjust the salt/lemon juice if necessary. Garnish with a twist of lemon, if you wish.
- Yellow mustard seeds don’t have the right flavor for this dish. You really do need to use brown or black ones.
- BTW, mustard probably originated in India. Or at least the earliest references point in that direction.
- We sometimes mince a few tablespoons of parsley or cilantro and toss them with the carrots right before serving.
- The cayenne pepper is optional (it’s not in the original recipe). We like the hint of heat it adds, but you might not.
- We use kosher salt in our kitchen (sea salt at table). Kosher salt has bigger flakes than table salt, so it doesn’t fill a measuring spoon as “tightly.” Hence, it’s less salty by volume. If you’re using regular table salt, use only half as much as we suggest. But always season to your taste, not ours.
- Because this dish can sit at room temperature for a while, it makes great picnic or pot-luck fare.
- This dish is typical of Gujarati cooking. Gujarat, a state in Western India, was one of the main centers of the Indus Valley Civilization. So its roots go back to the Bronze Age.
Carrot or Stick?
“Best beta-carotene I’ve ever had,” said Mrs. Kitchen Riffs, forking her plate. “My kind of nutrition. The mustard seeds add great flavor.”
“They definitely cut the mustard,” I said.
“Bet you’ve been waiting to say that,” said Mrs K R. “Well, I don’t carrot all.”
“Good one,” I said. “That pun was 24 carrot.”
“As was yours,” said Mrs K R. “I relish a good condiment pun.”
“Thanks. I have to continually challenge myself to new pun heights — or lows,” I said. “Otherwise, it’s just Dijon vu.”
“Amazing that you mustard the strength to come up with that one,” said Mrs K R.
“Well, I’m just trying to ketchup with you,” I said.
We’ll stop now, before we get ourselves in a pickle.
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