Ok, I have to admit. Before last year, I had never tasted carrot soup in my life. I figured, it would just taste like watery carrot purée right? Baby food. Then we went on a trip to the Lake District. In the middle of February. In the middle of a cold, wintry snap. Here are some gratuitous shots of the area. Don’t let the sunlight fool you, it was cold.
So after a tramp down a country lane in an unsuccessful search for a restaurant I had read about (it was closed), we chanced on this darling little cafe where we sought warm refuge. We had something light to eat and drink and just before leaving, I saw the sign for carrot soup. And suddenly this craving just hit me. I had to have that soup. We took away a serving of it in a styrofoam cup and went back to the car. I was surprised that coriander featured both in the herby and spicy varieties. The ground coriander made all the difference I think. I ran the risk of burning my tongue but that hot soup was so good I couldn’t stop sipping it. And so I filed that memorable soup into the recesses of my mind.
Fast forward to this year and another cafe, this time in Nottingham. Atlas Cafe is one of our favourites to go to for lunch as they make good fresh sandwiches and in the summer, the most amazing salads not of the boring leafy green sort. We make a variation of it at home with sweet corn, chick peas, olives, broad beans, and beetroot and a simple mustard vinaigrette dressing. The soup of the day at Atlas happened to be carrot and coriander soup. It came with some buttered bread and to be honest, the bread was the best part of the dish. The soup was more akin to my first impression of what carrot soup would be like.
I needed to counteract that disappointment, so this recipe I found on Jamie Oliver’s website seemed the best way to go about it. After reading the reviews, I added in a sweet potato which provides a smoothness to the soup. Don’t leave out the lemon and grated nutmeg, they are key to lifting the soup to an altogether different taste experience.
Oh, I have to tell you a funny story about nutmeg. I had never used freshly grated nutmeg but needed it in a recipe. So I bought some and proceeded to grate the whole fruit with my grater. To my frustration there was hardly anything grated down. Maybe my grater was blunt? So I switched to a newer one and still no luck. Finally I started shaking the nutmeg, I don’t know, maybe that would help in some weird way. There was something rattling inside. I cracked it and there it was! The actual kernel of nutmeg and I had actually been grating the shell. I felt very sheepish after that. I still have a half kernel of that nutmeg left kept in the two halves of its shell. Nutmeg’s potent stuff isn’t it? A little goes a long way. Every time I retrieve it I’m reminded of my silliness.
Carrot and Coriander Soup
Recipe modified from jamieoliver.com, added by British Carrots
15ml/1tbsp vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped
450g/1lb carrots, peeled and sliced into thick chunks
1 sweet potato, peeled and sliced into thick chunks
1 clove garlic, crushed
5ml/1 tsp ground coriander
1.2 ltr/2 pints vegetable stock
45ml/3tbsp chopped fresh coriander
squeeze of lemon juice
freshly grated nutmeg to taste
salt and freshly ground black pepper
single cream to serve if liked
1. Heat the oil in a large pan, add the onions and garlic, sauté for 1min, until they are beginning to soften but not colour. Then add in the carrots and sweet potato and sauté for another 4 mins. Stir in the ground coriander and plenty of seasoning and cook for 1min.
2. Add the stock and bring to the boil, cover and simmer for 20 mins or until the carrots are really tender.
3. Transfer the vegetables to a blender and add 1 pint of stock to blend. Keeping adding the stock bit by bit until you get the consistency you prefer. You will have some stock left over.
4. Return the soup to the pot. Stir in the chopped coriander. Add the lemon juice and nutmeg to taste and adjust the seasoning as necessary. Reheat until just hot but not boiling and serve. Garnish with a swirl of cream if liked.