Recipe by Julia Zouev. Photography & styling by Tanya Zouev.

This carrot and parsnip salad is one that would make a regular appearance on our family table when I was growing up. A favourite of mine as a young girl, I saw it often on the zakouska table alongside Poor Man’s Caviar that my mother would prepare for guests. Family friends would sip vodka as they nibbled their way through one of my mother’s famous appetiser spreads whilst chatting and laughing on a Saturday evening in our living room which incidentally, was only ever used when people came over.

Even though I eat very little Russian food these days, there are some standout dishes which are part of my regular cooking repertoire and this is one of them. As with many Eastern European salads, it is first cooked, then eaten cold, allowing flavours to develop and meld into one other. It has a sweet and savoury flavour with subtle tones of tomato and clove and is at times eaten with fresh dill, though flat leaf parsley is usually the herb of choice.

It appears quite simple, however there is an art to preparing this salad so that it is perfect. The carrots have to be very fresh or the texture won’t be right. Mum always taught me that a carrot is fresh if the top (where the green part meets the orange) is still bright green, then it’s perfect for “markovni salat” (carrot salad).

If you take shortcuts in the cooking process you’ll end up with carrot that is too hard and parsnip that is mushy. Traditionally Russians like to add sugar to the cooking process though I prefer to leave it out as I find the carrots sweet enough. If you would like to sweeten it up, add a tiny bit of maple syrup as the warm tones of this particular sweetener will work well with the other ingredients. Serve with meat (it’s amazing with chicken) or alongside other vegetables, or eat it on its own. Drinking vodka with it is entirely optional (though I won’t discourage you from doing so).

Serves 4 as a side. Prep time: 20 mins, cooking time 45 mins.

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons macadamia oil
1 medium brown onion, chopped finely
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 medium carrots, peeled and chopped into 1cm (half inch) pieces
1 medium parsnip, peeled and also chopped into 1cm (half inch) pieces
1 small green capsicum (pepper) chopped into 1cm (half inch pieces)
2 bay leaves
3 cloves
1/3 cup tomato paste
1/4 cup chicken or vegetable stock
salt and cracked black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons flat leaf parsley or dill chopped finely (optional)

Method:

1. Heat oil in a large heavy based fry pan and cook the onions, garlic, carrots and bay leaves for ten minutes. The carrots will start to soften and the onion will turn opaque. Add the parsnip and capsicum and cook a further fifteen minutes stirring regularly to ensure even cooking.

2. Add the stock, tomato paste, cloves, salt and pepper and stir to mix through. You will need to cook at least another twenty minutes until the salad has cooked down in size and the carrot is no longer raw-tasting. Do not over-cook as the parsnip will get mushy and start to coat the carrot.

3. Let salad cool before serving and scatter flat leaf parsley or dill over. Best served a few hours after cooking.

 

Photography and styling notes:

Such a vibrant salad doesn’t need much in the way of props so I kept it simple with a stunning blue bowl from Mud Australia, a raw linen cloth from Knock Knock Linen and a vintage spoon. The surface is a dark timber tabletop and the only light used in this image is window light. Camera used is a Canon 5D Mark III and the lens is a 24-70mm L-Series zoom.