Marty Martindale once wrote, “Little is nobler than presiding over a kettle of homemade soup.” I tend to agree. There is something about a thick, hearty soup that appeals to the vestigial memories of the comforting bowls of meaty, vegetable-laden stews served by our grandmothers and their grandmothers over the long course of human history.
Truly an efficient method of cooking, soups are the perfect vehicle for recycling leftovers, providing a nourishing meal with minimal tools and effort, and extending the life of small quantifies of ingredients while still filling the belly.
Every culture the world over claims traditional soups, stews, curries, bisques, cioppinos, and more as their own, from France’s delicate, high-brow consommé to Poland’s hearty zurek, a stew of fermented rye and sausages served in a bread bowl. The sheer number of varying types of soup is staggering; take a look at this list for just a few.
I love soup because it is formulaic, easy, requires minimal supervision – you can sort of wander in and out of the kitchen checking on it periodically – and is an easy medium for experimenting with flavors. I particularly like them in the winter as they are warming and easily transported to and from the office in little tupperware containers. I try to make a different soup every weekend, so that we have something to grab and go throughout the week.
I saw a recipe for spicy carrot soup with lime leaves and coconut on Seven Spoons recently, and while I am not overly enthusiastic about dishes centered solely around carrots (I find their unique flavor occasionally overpowering), I do love curry and the idea of the soup stuck with me for a week or two. I finally made this soup this past weekend, with a few minor changes, and we were delighted with the results.
This soup is spicy and flavored with curry and garlic, tangy from the lime, and the carrot flavor is pleasantly moderated by the creamy coconut milk. For a vegan option, simply use coconut cream to serve rather than sour cream.
Carrots. Carrots are one of the foundational ingredients in many soups, given their typical presence in mirepoix, which itself is often the base for many types of stocks and sauces. Carrots are packed with beta-carotene and Vitamin A, which promotes strong night vision, protects the skin from sun damage, and lowers one’s risk of heart disease, and falcarinol, a component that researchers believe possesses anticancer properties. (Falcarinol is a natural pesticide produced by the carrot that protects its roots from fungal diseases; carrots are one of the few easily-available sources of this compound. Link to the study here.)
Turmeric. Turmeric has long been one of the spices lurking at the back of our spice drawer; it’s slightly bitter taste is generally complimented by stronger flavors (curry powder, cinnamon, cloves, etc.) so I rarely cooked with it on its own. Last winter, I discovered this golden tea recipe by the Nourished Kitchen, and it has been a favorite ever since. I try to drink at least two or three cups of turmeric tea per week (usually mixed with water instead of milk, as the milk version is much richer and will put me to sleep if I have a morning cup at the office!). Turmeric has traditionally been used in Indian folk medicine to treat stomach, liver, pulmonary and gastrointestinal ailments, along with eczema, chicken pox, and shingles. Modern medicine is only now beginning to study the scientific benefits of turmeric, and there are currently trials underway to study tumeric’s potential efficacy against kidney and cardiovascular diseases, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, arthritis, and cancer.
I do caution anyone cooking with turmeric to wear an apron. I have splattered and dripped yellow tea or sauces onto more sweaters than I care to count, and this soup’s combination of curry and turmeric powders is incredibly staining. (As my favorite gray sweater found out this past weekend.) Do also be careful on white counter tops, though we have had excellent luck removing any stains with these little buggers.
Roasted Curried Carrot Soup
2 pounds of carrots
2 yellow onions, roughly chopped
1/2 head of garlic, diced
2 inches fresh ginger, grated
coconut oil, for roasting and sautéing
1 serrano chili, seeded and minced
3 teaspoons sea salt
3 teaspoons curry powder
1 teaspoon turmeric, ground
1 teaspoon coriander, ground
7 cups of water
1 can coconut milk (like this, not to be confused with coconut water)
2 stalks of lemongrass, halved lengthwise and cut into 2-in pieces + tied into cheesecloth
1 cup fresh cilantro leaves
1 lime, juiced
salt and pepper, to taste
raw shelled hemp seeds (I use these)
pistachios, almonds or cashews would also work, roughly chopped
fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
dollops of sour or coconut cream
1. Peel and chop carrots into 2-3 inch sections.* Coat with spoonful of coconut oil, and roast at 425°F for about twenty minutes. I broiled for about four minutes at the end to get a nice char on top, which caramelizes the carrots’ natural sugars and enhances the flavor. Set aside. *Peels and ends may be reserved for soup stock at a later date; throw into a large ziplock with other leftover odds and ends- pop into a crockpot with a few chicken carcasses and some spices, and viola!
2. In a deep sauté or chef’s pan (stockpot if you prefer), sauté the chopped onion with a bit of coconut oil, salt and pepper. When onions are translucent, add garlic, ginger, serrano chili (if you have any small cuts or dry skin on your fingers- wear gloves!), and spices: curry powder, turmeric, coriander, and sea salt. Allow to cook for another 3-4 minutes.
3. Add roasted carrots, seven cups of water, coconut milk and cheesecloth packet with lemongrass stalks. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Simmer for approximately 30-40 minutes, replacing water as needed.
4. Remove the lemongrass-cheesecloth packet. Using an immersion blender, purée the remaining soup into a thin creamy consistency. I left a few chunks of carrot and onion for a more rustic vibe. Alternately, allow soup to cool partially and blend in batches in a normal blender.
5. Add fresh lime juice, and season with salt and pepper to taste.
6. Toast hemp hearts (or nuts) with ground coriander in a small skillet over medium heat. When fragrant, remove from stove top and set aside.
7. Serve bowls of soup with dollop of sour cream (or coconut cream, for a vegan meal), and sprinkles of seasoned hemp hearts and fresh cilantro. I used teacups for a light early supper- warming the hands and the heart!
This soup reheats well- it almost seemed more flavorful the next day!