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Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Curried Carrot Soup

To make nutritious, healthful and palatable soup, with flavors properly commingled, is an art which requires study and practice, but it is surprising from what a scant allotment of material a delicate and appetizing dish may be produced.
Buckeye Cookery and Practical Housekeeping, 1877

Carrots are a lovely thing, of great use in the kitchen. They can fit in all of the traditional courses in some manner or another, and can be consumed raw or cooked, spiced and seasoned 'til barely recognizable or plain and delightful. Carrot soup is a poorly-used part of the recipe book, in that I've only seen it once or twice in my travels through the culinary world; I find it in many older cookbooks, and encountered a Soupe aux Carottes Nivernais in a French cookbook once. I see carrot purées appearing on plates as a sauce a lot more recently, but it seems odd that nobody has moved the carrot back to the soup bowl where it once resided alone.

In the aforementioned Buckeye Cookery, the following recipe appears:
Put in a soup kettle a knuckle of veal, three or four quarts cold water, a quart finely-sliced carrots, one head celery; boil two and a half hours, add a handful rice, and boil an hour longer; season with pepper (or a bit of red pepper pod) and salt, and serve. —Mrs. Eliza T. Carson
Old recipes have an accessibility issue due to ingredients (this one, fortunately, contains no ingredients which have since gone extinct, changed name, or are no longer considered healthy) and language—it's rare to see recipes in prose nowadays—, and they suffer from an accuracy issue: there's a difference between 3 and 4 quarts of, well, one whole quart. Further, a handful for me, a handful for my friend Miss Kagashi, and a handful for you are all different amounts—and my handfuls can vary amongst themselves, as well.

Carrot soups appear in almost every period cookbook I have examined, and they all follow more or less the same pattern; some involve puréeing the soup by passing it through a tamis/sieve, others (like the one above) are more rough and brothy. To my mind, the carrot soup ought to be puréed, otherwise it becomes a vegetable broth soup that's missing... the rest of the vegetables.

I've spoken before about fusion foods, and about marrying differing countries' cuisines. In this recipe, I am going to do a small bit of fusion and make a curried  puréed carrot soup, nice and spicy, with some added cream to enrich the soup, provide some body, and also to help smooth the curry spice slightly. Additionally, there's no reason to put meat in this soup, so I'm going to omit the veal knuckle—besides, I missed my chance to hit up the butcher shop.

Therefore, having now rambled on for quite a bit, today I present to you a simple Curried Carrot Soup, for your enjoyment.

Mise-en-Place, less the carrots.
2 quarts (1.89 L) water
2 lb (900 g) carrot, 1/2 inch (1.5 cm) chop  
1 lb (450 g) onion, rough chop
1/2 lb (225 g) celery, rough chop

1 Tbsp (15 ml) garlic paste or crushed garlic (roughly 4-6 cloves depending on size)
2 Tbsp (30 ml) curry powder
1 pt (551 ml) heavy (double) cream

1. Bring water to a boil, add ample salt, and cook carrots until soft. Strain carrots and discard cooking water.

At the end of step 2, with water added.
2. Sauté onions, garlic, and celery until soft. Add curry powder, sauté 3-5 minutes (mixing to ensure that nothing burns.) Return carrots to pot, and add fresh water to just cover the vegetables.

3. Purée (a food mill would be really handy here, followed with an immersion blender if available) until smooth, and return to heat. Bring to a simmer, and add in the cream. Check the consistency and seasonings; the goal is to be smooth, creamy, and with a good curry flavor.

If you had particularly bland carrots, you may need to add up to a cup (237 ml) of honey, sugar, or other sweetener to compensate; your mileage (kilometrage?) may vary.

Yield: about 2-3 quarts (1.89-2.83 L) depending on how much water you add in.

Incidentally, it's the first night of hanukkah! For us Jews in the world, it's a celebration of a great military victory of the Jews over the invading Syrian/Hellenic forces of Antiochus IV Epiphanes. To commemorate, candles are lit, and things are fried in oil.

Coming up soon, I will be presenting a menu for a dinner that I am preparing with a friend for some associates. While we'll be holding it after Hanukkah proper, we're still celebrating the holiday at the dinner—and ideally there will be recipes for most of the dishes.


  1. That looks delicious! I've been looking for a nice soup, actually, in accordance with cold weather demanding warm liquids.

    Thanks for the fun read. <3

  2. I have long had an interest in period cookery (which for me extends from the early 20th century back thru Roman) and I have made a curried carrot soup on several occasions. It's really one of my favorites and has gotten rave reviews from the other diners. I have never found it necessary to add any sweetener to my soup, but then I dislike sweet vegetables and meat. If you like, I would be happy to share my recipe with you for comparison and contrast.


  3. That would certainly be enlightening, Karen—share away!

  4. nice!I love carrot soup, but I rather add one or two potatoes to make it creamy instead of cream.
    Think I'll try it this way next time.


Your opinions and comments always are welcomed, but do be civil... this isn't a kitchen, after all.