As the New Year gets underway, and the Christmas decorations go back in the loft for another year, it’s only too obvious that January can be a dreary month, a full 31 days long and often with grey, gloomy weather and nothing much to look forward to… (I’m in the lucky position of flying out to Boston again at the end of the month to visit my son, but I’m aware that’s hardly standard!) On grey days, there’s nothing like a bowl of brightly coloured soup to warm us up, and carrots are not only seasonal, but perfect for their zingy orange colour. I already have a couple of favourite carrot soups in my repertoire: the perennially popular carrot & coriander and a fresh-tasting carrot, orange & ginger soup, both already on the blog, but I’ve also been making a satisfying simple carrot & lentil soup for years, and it’s about time I shared that here too. Finally, catching up with the stack of food magazines that had built up in the pre-Christmas rush, I came across a delicious-sounding recipe for a carrot & coconut soup in the Waitrose Kitchen magazine and had to try that too. With a hint of chilli heat, fragrant spice and the sweetness of coconut, it passed my taste test and my slight variation on the original deserves to be recorded here for posterity.
I was given a Braun stick blender for Christmas and used it for the first time to blend my soup, rather than the freestanding liquidiser I usually use. What an improvement on the hand blenders of yesteryear! My old yellowing model dates back over 30 years to when my elder son was a baby and I used to purée fruit and vegetables for him. It hung above the window ledge of our sunny kitchen window in the Peak District and the white plastic soon took on a faded, yellowish hue. It was never very efficient at blending whole pans of soup, whereas this new one is super powerful and produced wonderfully smooth results. I can see I’ll get a great deal of use out of it!
Carrot & Coconut Soup – serves 6
a good glug of olive oil
a 3cm piece of root ginger, grated (I keep some in the freezer and grate from frozen)
1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
5 spring onions, chopped (or use a couple of leeks)
600g carrots, peeled and chopped
bunch of fresh coriander
700ml vegetable stock (or use chicken or turkey stock if you’re not vegetarian)
400g can coconut milk
juice and zest of 1 lime
Coconut flakes, lightly toasted, to garnish
Heat the oil in a large pan and add the ginger, two-thirds of the chopped chilli and the chopped spring onions or leeks. Cook over a low heat for 5-10 minutes until softened. Add the chopped carrots, coriander stalks and seasoning, cook for a further 5 minutes, then add the stock. Bring to the boil and cook for 15-20 minutes, or until the carrots are tender.
Add the coconut milk and the zest of the lime and simmer for a further 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and blend until smooth with a stick blender or in a liquidiser goblet and add the lime juice. Serve with coriander leaves, the remaining chopped chillis and the toasted coconut flakes as a decorative garnish.
The carrot & lentil soup recipe below originally came from an old M&S vegetarian cookbook (Vegetarian Feast) in the early 1980s. I often make it with chicken stock, but it tastes just as good with vegetable stock – just avoid stock cubes, or even bouillon powder, if you want the authentic taste of homemade soup!
Carrot & Lentil Soup – serves 6
a knob of butter
1 large onion, chopped
2 sticks celery, chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
4 carrots, chopped (about 250g)
150g red lentils
1 litre vegetable stock (or chicken if you prefer)
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
150ml fresh milk
handful of finely chopped fresh parsley
Melt the butter in a large pan and sauté the chopped onion, garlic and celery gently for about 10 minutes until softened. Add the chopped carrots and cook for a further few minutes, then add the lentils. Pour in the stock, bring to the boil and simmer gently for about 40 minutes until the vegetables are cooked.
Blend with a stick blender or in a liquidiser until smooth, then season to taste and add the milk and lemon juice. Reheat gently, then stir in the finely chopped parsley, saving some to garnish the serving bowls. Freezes beautifully.
Sadly, I don’t do well with growing carrots myself. I thought I had a good crop this year, when I decided I’d grow them without the protective environmesh. This seemed to help with germination as it stopped the slugs sheltering in the warmth under the protective covering, but also meant that the carrot root fly were free to lay their eggs, ruining much of the later crop. Sigh. Back to the drawing board. I still grow them for delicious baby summer carrots, but I’d love to do better with the main crop. Heavy clay isn’t ideal for carrots, unfortunately…