October 06, 2012

Carrot & Fennel Soup

This soup has a remarkable, silky texture, even when simply pureed with a stick-blender (no chinoise or cheesecloth necessary). The fennel brings a lightness to the character of the soup, as well as a more complex, sophisticated flavour. The fennel also helps keep the sweetness from the carrots in check. This is one of those rare dishes that feels as healthy as it is, so you can feel comforted and virtuous at the same time.

Whenever I make this dish, I berate myself for not making it more often. It's easy, lovely, and very satisfying. As you can see, it doesn't take long to knock together - most of the total time is unattended cooking time.

Carrot & Fennel Soup
Serves 4 (6 as a starter)

1 fennel bulb, sliced
450 grams carrot, sliced
1 medium yellow onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 cups vegetable broth (or light chicken broth)
2 cups water
1 teaspoon fennel seed
1 teaspoon coriander seed
1/2 teaspoon cumin seed

In a medium-large soup pot, over a medium flame, heat the olive oil and saute the onion and garlic with the spices. Add the sliced carrots and fennel, and stir well. Add the water and the veggie broth, and stir well. Simmer gently, covered for 30 - 40 minutes, or until the vegetables are soft. Puree with a stick blender, being patient to ensure everything is finely pureed. Check seasoning to see if it needs more coriander seed or salt. If your vegetable broth is quite salty, it may not need either.

Serve with crusty bread. If you're not vegetarian, you might want some slices of chorizo on the side or floated on the top, too. For extra fancy presentation use some of the fennel fronds as a garnish instead of the token cilantro shown here. Very fine rings of red chile would also make a delightful finish.

You can also use curry masala instead of the whole spices, for a slightly more curried taste, and you can substitute a cup of the water with coconut milk for a creamier, more luscious effect.

This soup freezes very well, making it a great item to stash in the freezer for an emergency dinner, or as make-ahead lunches. It reheats nicely in the microwave, getting a meal on the table in minutes.

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