za’atar roasted carrots with carrot top & sunflower seed pesto

With all the Christmas and Thanksgiving-related indulgences that have already started, I thought what better than something simple, vegetable-based and wholesome to start off the new week. These carrots are super easy and flavourful, and you can customise them however you want. Maybe with a soft-boiled egg and some toast points for lunch, or with some quinoa and sautéed kale for dinner. Totally up to you.

If you haven’t come across it before, za’atar is a great thing to keep in your pantry. It’s a Middle Eastern spice mix comprised of dried herbs, sesame seeds and salt. I love the fact that it already has salt in it, so you can eat it right away. It’s great roasted with vegetables, sprinkled over flatbread, combined with labneh or olive oil as a dip for pita bread. The list goes on.

You can pick it up at most Indian or Middle Eastern food shops, or online if you don’t have any ethnic food stores nearby. Keep it in an airtight jar like you would any other spices, and be adventurous with it! Now I come to think about it, it’s probably delicious sprinkled over avocado toast. Mmmm.

I used heirloom carrots here, which came with their tops on. I like recipes that aren’t wasteful, so why not use the carrot tops to make a zippy pesto to serve on the carrots. Toasting the sunflower seeds is a great way to bring out a much deeper, almost cheesy flavour. This also means that you don’t need any actual cheese in the pesto, so this is great for vegans. Just be sure to swap out the greek yoghurt for an almond, coconut or soy based alternative!

You’ll probably have just enough pesto leftover to toss with some pasta for a quick week-night dinner too. So this is basically two meals in one!


  • Serves: 4 people as a side dish
  • Time:
    • Prep: 15 mins
    • Cook: 30 mins


  • For the carrots:
    • 1 bunch heirloom carrots
    • 2 tbsp olive oil
    • 2 tsp za’atar
  • For the pesto:
    • 1/3 cup sunflower seeds (hulled, sometimes labelled as sunflower hearts)
    • 1 packed cup carrot tops
    • 1/2 tsp salt
    • 3 tbsp olive oil
    • 1/2 lemon juiced
    • water, as needed
  • To serve:
    • 4 heaped tbsp greek yoghurt


  1. Preheat the oven to 375f convection (400f regular setting). Begin by trimming the tops off the carrots and scrubbing them under running water. Set the carrot tops aside.
  2. Toss the carrots with the olive oil and za’atar. Spread them out on a parchment-lined baking sheet and roast in the middle of the oven for about 30 minutes, until crisp on the outside and tender within.
  3. Meanwhile, make the pesto. Wash 1 packed cup of the carrot tops and pat dry. Toast the sunflower seeds in a dry frying pan over a medium heat until they start to look shiny and become aromatic.
  4. Remove from the pan and leave to cool for a few minutes. When cool, tip into a food processor. Blend until they form a coarse, sandy powder. Add the carrot tops, salt and lemon juice and blend again until well combined.
  5. With the motor running, add the olive oil and water, stopping to scrape down the sides as necessary. The pesto should be thick and spoonable. Add more water if necessary to loosen it.
  6. To serve, use the back of a spoon to swipe 3 tbsp greek yoghurt across a large plate. Arrange the carrots on the bed of yoghurt (this will prevent them from sliding around). Mix the remaining tbsp of yoghurt with a little water to thin it out. Pour this over the carrots and add a few spoonfuls of pesto.


If you can’t get hold of the hulled sunflower seeds, you can sub in hemp hearts, pine nuts or walnuts.

Written on November 19, 2017