Regardless of whether you love or are indifferent to vegetables, these two vegetables are indispensible when it comes to cooking. Originally, carrot and celery are wild edible plants with a long cultivation tradition. Their culinary qualities have turned them into common ingredients of just about any dish ranging from lightly cooked dishes, stocks, stews to delicious meat roasts. Their rich and full flavours that refine just about any dish have in time enabled them to almost be considered spices. As such these flavours have provided the inspiration for the invention of Vegeta, Croatia’s most famous condiment. Notwithstanding the fact that they’re ingredients of Vegeta, chefs recommend that carrot and celery be used fresh and prepared only for a short while in order to get fuller aromas and preserve nutritive values. When it comes to their culinary use, they can be used raw, cooked, sautéed, glazed, roasted, dried, steamed or grilled.
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Given the fact that they’re grown during all twelve months, carrot and celery are our faithful companions all year round. Taking into account that vegetables are scarce during winter and early spring, carrot and celery take the centre stage. It’s definitely recommended to use them as much as possible as an appetizer, side dish or the main source of inspiration when preparing dishes. These days carrots are grown in all kinds of colours: orange, white, yellow and purple. This, in turn, allows you to be imaginative and play with colours when serving your meals. When talking about celery, both the root and the leaf stalk have a culinary usage. They can both be eaten fresh, but they’re just as good when it comes to preparing interesting delicacies.
Fresh carrot and celery work best in all kinds of salads. You can try them in a salad containing julienne apples, beetroot, carrot, celery and mayonnaise and yoghurt sauce. Carrots can also be used to make salad dressings. Put fresh carrots, oil, vinegar, soya sauce, sugar, ginger in a blender and mix it all together. You can serve the dressing with a green salad to your liking. Grated carrots are very delicious when added in a salad with red cabbage. Roasted carrots can be served with pistachios, red chicory and olives. Celery root chips make a phenomenal side dish, much like roasted carrots and white beans spread.
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They also go great with meat and fish. You can’t have pašticada without carrot, game is often stuffed with carrot and celery or is roasted in its root vegetables. When it comes to fish, you can serve all kinds of fish from trout to sea bass with carrot and celery purée.
Our search for culinary ideas led us to explore famous Croatian restaurants where you can relish the interesting blend of these two vegetables already while you’re having your side dish. At bistro Fotić located in the very centre of Zagreb they make a very interesting celery cream soup served with lavender flowers. The mild flavour of celery in combination with Mediterranean Croatia gives the soup its unique flavour. At restaurant Stara loza in Dubrovnik, which has been included in the Michelin recommendation list, head chef Matko Prce revealed the recipe for his intriguing carrot and ginger cream soup:
“First we oven-bake whole carrots at 180 °C. The carrots are baked for 15 minutes. In the meantime we braise chopped onions. When the onion gets tender, we place the carrots in the dish, pour in some water and then everything is left to simmer for about half an hour. When it’s done, we mix it all together, grate some fresh ginger and add a drop of olive oil.”
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Carrot or celery side dishes make an excellent twist on a plate when served with a main course. The colour of carrots will be a great decoration to any meat or fish dish, while its sweetness will complement and invigorate classic recipes. Its flavour will blend in superbly with other vegetables such as green beans, pea, broccoli or chick pea. Unlike carrot, the gentle flavour of celery makes it ideal for combining it with ingredients possessing a more intense flavour. Restaurant Horizont has found its home in the historic core of Dubrovnik. At this restaurant you can enjoy the view of the old city walls, whereas their offer of Mediterranean dishes will easily blow your mind. In addition to countless local ingredients, carrot has managed to find its place in the menu. When the season is at its peak, they obtain carrots from local family farms. Head chef Sandra Ivanković told us which of the dishes have been inspired by carrot:
“For us it’s vital that all of the dishes we serve be prepared using local and seasonal ingredients. We always modify the menu according to that principle. When I prepare my dishes, I often use Mediterranean herbs. This dish is no exception. I marinate lamb chops in Mediterranean herbs depending on what’s available. But mostly I use fresh rosemary, sage, basil and thyme. The marinated lamb chops are prepared on butter. When they’re done, I serve them with carrot purée. I add butter to the purée to get a creamy texture, whereas dill improves the flavour. Carrot purée is very easy to make. You just have to cook the carrots and mash it when they’re done. We serve young pea sauce and fried fennel with the carrot purée.”
Restaurant Nautika is yet another renowned Dubrovnik restaurant, which has been included in Michelin’s map of Croatia. The restaurant boasts a stunning terrace overlooking the sea where you’ll get a chance to relish extraordinary specialties. Head chef Mario Bunda briefly shared with us their celery specialty:
“Celery and carrot are ingredients used on a daily basis in our kitchen to prepare soups, sauces and all kinds of side dishes. We prepare celery purée or foam. First we peel the celery and chop it into tinier chunks. Then we cook it in a liquid made from equal amounts of water and milk and add a bit of salt. Once the celery is done, we filtrate the liquid, mash the celery and add some butter. Celery purée is served with beef fillet together with other seasonal vegetables such as broccoli or green beans.”