Paris-based culinary escapades and recipes
Picturesque Place Monge with it’s ornate fountain and handsome plane trees is home to a miscellany of market stalls on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. Part of its charm is that it’s in no way pitched at tourists; there are no croissants or tablecloths from Provence, and as a result it’s part of the community.
I spotted an army of locals in a laughably long line by P. Casson’s Fruits & Légumes. A 20 minute wait in the January cold for some parsnips and potatoes? Seems so. A cheery old couple in the queue explained that it’s the only stall selling produce directly from nearby farmers, hence the towers of celeriac, cabbage and kale. The stall’s father and daughter team were warmly wishing customers a happy new year and taking the time to listen to how their regulars had spent the break. It was enough to make you believe that Paris is in fact made up of lots of little villages.
A crate of muddy carrots got me thinking about how much I love Mary Cadogan’s recipe for carrot cake; it’s hearty and moist and handily the right quantity for my 18cm square cake tin. But obviously there were no oranges at P. Casson’s Fruits & Légumes so I had to leave that bit out. I also switched the raisins for prunes and added hazelnuts – thank you Sophie Grigson for the toasting and skinning hazelnuts video.
The end product was probably the best carrot cake I’ve ever made. To be fair I’ve only made a few, but it was so good it didn’t even need frosting. What’s more it’s seasonal, which is a nice smug come-back for anyone challenging cake-eating post Christmas.
175g light brown muscovado sugar
175g sunflower oil
150g carrots, grated
75g hazelnuts, toasted, skinned and chopped in a food processor
100g pitted prunes, roughly chopped
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
175g self-raising flour
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius/ 350 degrees Fahrenheit/ gas mark 4 and line a square 18cm cake tin with greaseproof paper. Put the sugar, oil and eggs in a large mixing bowl and mix together. Stir in the carrots, hazelnuts and prunes. Pour the bicarb and cinnamon into the flour and mix before sifting into the carrot mixture. Lightly mix everything together then pour into the cake tin, give it a jiggle and bake for 40-45 minutes. Remove from the oven and let it cool in the tin for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.