Carrots are grown in dirt. Loamy, sandy, soil. They grow in the big glorious organism on which we all attempt to coexist. We call it Earth. And yet I rarely see that earth clinging to the skins of my root vegetables. Even on the market they are spruced and polished so that we can see their wonderfully unblemished skins. Those lucky enough to have a garden take a particular joy in shaking the soil from their veg but as a flat-liver, I have not such luck. But I didn’t always feel that way.

When I was a child I would fervently hope that my mother would buy ‘clean’ carrots in the greengrocers. As it was often my job to peel them I thought she was just a bit mean in not wanting to pay the extra penny a pound for those bright orange sticks. But no; she would stubbornly buy the ‘dirty’ carrots – as they were pornographically labeled – declaring that there was no doubt about it: they tasted better.

As with many lessons we learn from our parents, it takes a while for us to acknowledge that perhaps they were right. And in the case of dirty carrots, I have no doubt that my mother is resoundingly correct in this, if not other matters. I have my own theory about why this flavour improvement may take place. Could it be that in removing the dirt we also remove a protective layer that allows the oils in the skin to evaporate? I’m sure some food technologist could explain it. I have tried to research it, but to no avail…

Today in Scotland, it is still possible to choose between dirty and clean carrots, but it’s rare that I see them in London. All of which explains why I was willing to pay a ludicrous amount for four sand covered carrots from Natoora the other week.

Two of them have been languishing in the bottom of my veg basket for a a few too many days, but carrots Dipticare a veg which can stand to be a little soft when you use them. In fact they may even taste a little sweeter. I also had left over cooked chicken from a roast on Sunday night. I’d roasted it with a sprinkling of za’tar – the North African mix of sesame, thyme, oregano and marjoram – so thought I’d continue the theme adding honey, lemon, a little chill and a touch of cinnamon.

I always have all butter puff pastry in my little freezer. I buy it pre-made but not rolled. I cut it into four and put them in separate cling covered packets. Whenever I feel like a tart (which is quite often – no gags here please) out comes a piece. It’s rolled out and topped with tomatoes, vegetables..whatever is in the fridge. Tonight though, with the temperature unseasonably low, I thought I’d go for a pie.


Serves 1

  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1/4 red onion
  • 1 small knob of ginger, chopped finely
  • 20g of golden sultanas
  • 1 carrot – dirty if possible, chopped into small dice
  • A pinch of chili
  • A pinch of cinnamon
  • 2 tsp honey
  • Juice of 1/4 of a lemon
  • 100ml stock (I used left over gravy)
  • 1/2 tsp cornflour, mixed with a little cold water
  • 100g cooked chicken
  • 1/4 pack of all butter puff pastry
  • Egg wash with salt to glaze

salt and pepper


  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180C
  2. Heat the olive oil in a heavy based saucepan and add the onion, ginger, carrots and sultanas. Season with salt, pepper and add the spice and allow to sweat for 3-4 minutes
  3. Add the stock, honey and lemon juice and simmer for 3 minutes.
  4. Taste and adjust the seasoning if required.
  5. Thicken with the cornflour and add the cooked chicken.
  6. Place the chicken mix in a small pie pot.
  7. Roll out the pastry and cover the chicken mixture, cutting a hole to let out the steam. Brush with a beaten egg with a little salt for shine.
  8. Bake for 20 mins and serve whilst trying to stay warm.