After months of eating healthy salads at lunchtime (most particularly my Sensational Alkalising Salad), I now want a nice bowl of warming soup when I take a break from work in the week. It’s not very cold for the time of year but it’s definitely colder. And it feels like winter anyway with too many days of dark, grey skies that are quickly shortening in the lead-up to the Winter Solstice on 21 December. Born under the astrological sun sign of Aries, I’m definitely not a winter-loving woman. But if I can’t have the warm sun – I can have a bowl of hot carrot soup, with its bright and sunny colour, warmed even more with addition of some spices. Aries is also a fire sign so maybe that’s why I love to add some fiery chillis to my soup!
I’ve done a couple of carrot soups here on the blog before – roasted with orange and ginger (click here) and with fresh coriander (click here). The one I made yesterday is similar and something I put together often from the ingredients I always have in my fridge, although I had actually bought a nice bunch of organic carrots, still with their feathery stems, in Waitrose in the morning with a view to making soup. Carrots are one of the vegetables where you really gain from eating organic. I know they cost more but the taste is infinitely better. They actually taste of carrots – a deep, sweet earthiness – rather than … well, often of nothing much at all! And carrots are so good for us. People think it’s a myth that eating them can help you see in the dark, but actually they really are good for your eyes due to their beta-carotene content. I added some cumin, coriander seeds and chilli flakes to my soup yesterday, which I ground in my pestle and mortar.
You could also try cardamom which is combined with carrots in the traditional Indian dessert gajar halwa served at special feasts, and cinnamon goes well with carrots too.
In a large pan, gently fry 1 large onion, chopped; 1 stem celery chopped; 1 large potato, chopped, in a good glug of olive oil. When the vegetables have softened slightly, add the ground spices and stir well and cook a bit to release all the aromatics. Now add the carrots – my bunch weighed 400g – roughly chopped.
Stir it all together well, then leave to gently cook for a few minutes – stirring occasionally – with the lid on. I like to sweat the vegetables in the oil for a time as you get a fuller, slightly caramelised flavour. But don’t let them noticeably brown. Next add enough water (or stock if you have any) to cover the vegetables. Add about a teaspoon of salt and some freshly ground black pepper, bring it all to the boil and leave to gently simmer for about 20 minutes until the vegetables are cooked through and quite soft when you test with a sharp knife. Now blitz it all with a hand blender.
I like my vegetable soups to be nice and thick but if it’s too thick for you, thin it down with some hot water or stock until you have the consistency you prefer. Make sure to check seasoning again, especially if you’ve added more liquid.
Ladle some into a serving bowl and drizzle over a little olive oil. I had a couple of nice loaves around so had a slice of each with some salty French butter: a slice of Ruben’s Bakehouse sourdough and some of Paul Bakery’s rye bread. It was a perfect lunch: deeply flavoured soup with a gorgeous kick of spices. It may have been raining outside but it was sunny and warm at my dining table! And the leftover soup was packaged up – once cold – into separate portions for the freezer and another day.