Wednesday, March 9, 2016

How to Read a Recipe: Carrot Ginger Soup

This is one of those recipes that I learned in university. It was quick, cheap, easy and could be made in a pinch on a hot plate in residence as long as you had access to a blender. My understanding is that there were a few people making margeri... smoothies in some of the rooms. On an unrelated note, it was National Margarita Day on February 22.

The basic recipe is so easy, boil carrots in a liquid and add spices and blend. There. No real reason to read the rest of this post except if you are no longer an university student. Below is a variation I made a couple of weeks ago and you can see how it has changed.

Carrot Ginger Soup

1 lb carrots, peeled and sliced
2 cloves garlic
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 cups beer
2 tbsp minced ginger
2 tbsp miso
2 tbsp of butter (or more)

1. Take carrots and garlic and roast them in a 400 degree oven until knife tender. Check at about the 15 minute mark and check them every now and again until they are on the softer side. Remember you are boiling them later so no need to be ultra precise. 
2. In the meantime, you can do each of these steps in a row and spend the next half an hour or so watching a Netflix episode of some cooking show or you could cook the onions in butter at low heat until they caramelize. That's when they get all sticky and sweet and um, caramel-y.
3. Add miso and ginger and cook every so slightly. For a bigger ginger pop, use powdered ginger and add it a little later in the process.
4. Now, if the timing worked out, add onion mixture and roasted carrot stuff (technical term) into a pot that can hold all those and the beer.
5. Add beer, and water, if needed, and bring to a boil and turn it down a few notches, an anti-Emeril if you will. Simmer for those who know those jargon laden culinary terms. Cook until carrots are beginning to fall apart.
6. Blend into desired texture. Add water to thin it out, if you like it thinner.

Seriously, that is all. Nothing to it. I could have written less steps but then it feels like less of a recipe.

Umami Bomb: There is a lot that can be done to boost flavours in the soup. Roasting the vegetables and coating them with miso or tomato paste. Also, just frying some tomato paste with the spices to reduce it a little. If you want to add "meatiness", one star anise is good. Such a slight licorice flavour without overpowering everything else going on.

Spice it Up; Harissa. Carrots love harissa. It is a pepper blend that is pretty freaking awesome. It has caraway which is another natural pairing for carrots along. Other spices that pair well are coriander, cumin and nutmeg. Just a little will change what is happening. Moroccan warm spices.

Change the Liquid: Change up the liquid. I used beer above. Wit or white beer with coriander will work. Add flavourful stock, especially beef stock works well. Remember pot roasts? Almost always cooked with carrots. There is a reason why. Oh, and if you want to boost the carroty goodness, try adding carrot juice.

Sides and Toppings: So remember up there when I talked about harissa? It makes an awesome topping. If you want, add some sour cream and harissa and you are starting to get fancy. I like to add pickled carrots to make the rest of the soup pop because I always like some acid to make veggies taste great. Pesto also works well. Check out what sauces you have in your fridge and try it. I haven't added chili sauce but why not? A few chickpeas or lentils on top add a little protein and some texture.

Refinements: Oh wow. You can get really cheffy with this. Use a food mill to get it silky smooth. Add a bit of butter at the end to make it glossy. Cream. Lemon. Thai ingredients.

I guess my point is that simple recipes can be used as a jumping off point. Since you are using such a humble, by which it is normally read as cheap, you may be able to afford to experiment unlike when you were in university. I guess some of us may have experimented but not with anything that cost money...

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