Last weekend I bought some amazing, gnarly looking chantenay carrots from the San Francisco Ferry Plaza farmers market. When I found them at Tierra Vegetables they were just begging me to turn them into soup. I rose to the challenge, but first I had a few problems to solve.
Usually when I eat or make carrot soup it is in one of two styles. It can come either curried, warm and spicy, or gingered with hints of cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg. While I love these soups, they feel a little too much like fall and winter for me to get excited about them when summer in SF is just starting.
I didn’t want a soup that is warm and wintery, I wanted a carrot soup that is bright and summery.
To achieve this I started with carrot and ginger, but add a twist. Rather than spicing the soup with cinnamon and other fall flavors I added tumeric and a few Thai chili peppers to give it color, flavor and some heat. Then I brightened it up with lemon juice and preserved lemons. The soup is finished with crème fraîche, scallions, ginger flowers and lemon-scented olive oil.
To my delight this soup turned out amazing and unlike anything I had ever tasted. And it was exactly what I wanted. If you don’t have preserved lemons, I’m sure zest would produce a similar effect. Likewise, you can swap a serrano pepper for the Thai peppers and sour cream for crème fraîche. Ginger flowers and lemon oil are just bonus.
To blend the soup I used my new Cuisinart immersion blender (aka hand or stick blender), and I was very pleased with the result. I’m really happy about this because the Cuisinart is half the price of the Braun blender I used to use.
You can make the soup in a regular blender if you do not have an immersion blender.
Spicy Carrot Ginger Soup With Lemon
- 3 chantenay carrots or 5-6 regular carrots, peeled and cut into half inch slices
- 1 medium onion chopped
- 1 inch fresh ginger root, grated
- 2-3 Thai chilies or 1 serrano chili, chopped and seeded (optional)
- 1 tsp tumeric
- 1 qt vegetable or chicken broth
- 2 cups water
- 1/2 lemon juiced (and zest if desired)
- 1/2 tbsp preserved lemon strips
- Crème fraîche
- 1 tbsp butter or olive oil
- salt to taste
Heat butter or oil in a heavy bottomed soup pot and add onions. Saute until they become translucent then add the carrots, half the ginger, peppers and tumeric and cook until carrots are tender, stirring frequently, about 10 minutes. If the vegetables start to brown, lower the heat.
When the carrots are soft add broth and bring to a boil. Simmer until the carrots are very tender and can easily be cut with a fork, about 10 minutes. Remove soup from heat, add the rest of the ginger and preserved lemons and blend until smooth, about 5 minutes. Add water as needed to thin the soup. I ended up adding 2 full cups.
If you are using a regular blender, be very very careful when blending hot liquids. Only fill the blender half full and blend in batches, holding the lid down with a kitchen towel. I’ve had many steaming soups explode and burn me, and it is not fun. That’s why I love my hand blender.
At this point you can filter the soup through a fine mesh strainer if you like, but I prefer to keep all the fiber in the soup and simply blend it very well. The texture is rich and silky this way, but will be thinner if you filter it.
Whisk in lemon juice and adjust salt to taste. Ladle hot soup into a bowl and garnish with crème fraîche, scallions and lemon oil.
This makes a fairly large batch of soup. However, carrot soup freezes extraordinarily well so feel free to freeze a couple pints for later. The soup will keep 3-4 days in the refrigerator.
What is your favorite way to make carrot soup?
Originally published Sept 7, 2009.