[Smashy the Hammer] [An Aspiring Luddite]
I carry no phone
An aspiring Luddite
In a wired world.
[Jeff Berry]
Jeff Berry is an early adopter of the Internet and the Web, a late adopter of Twitter, and declines to adopt Facebook. With the death of Google+, he's experimenting with federated platforms. He admins a medievalist Mastodon instance, and can found on the PlusPora diaspora pod. He hates cell-phones.

Carrot and Lentil Soup with Ginger
14 March 2013
[Carrot Lentil Soup]

Recently I had brunch with a friend at a local eatery and she ordered the Carrot Ginger Soup, which was pretty tasty. Carrot Ginger Soup is a fairly common offering, which makes sense since the flavors blend well. I had carrots. I always have ginger. You can see where this is going.

The carrots were from the CSA, but I'd bagged the last few and popped them into the freezer. This did unusual things to their crispness; things like "destroyed it." Which is perfectly acceptable if they are going into a smooth soup. It seemed like a good fit and an efficient use of resources.

Of course, I am constitutionally unable to leave well enough alone. (Except in the case of Cockaleekie. In that I am staunch traditionalist. But I digress.) I was also facing the added complication of making it medievally-Lenten appropriate which means no chicken broth and no cream or anything to make it, well, creamier. A final consideration was that, texturally, these soups can be a bit boring. That's not always a problem, per se, but it's something to think about.

The solution I hit upon was simple enough - I would add lentils to the equation and see if it balanced.

[Lots of pictures]

Carrot and Lentil Soup with Ginger

As with so many good things in life, this begins with onions and garlic sautéing in olive oil. Cut them up and toss them in a pot with some oil and cook over medium to high heat. You'd like to get some browning on them, but you don't want them to burn. Cut your carrots, peeling them if needed, and after the onions and garlic have started to get some color, add the carrots. Everything is going to be puréed, so don't worry too much about the size or shape you cut your vegetables. After the carrots have had a couple of minutes, add enough water to cover the vegetables, reduce the heat to low, cover the pot and let it simmer for maybe half an hour - until the carrots have gotten tender.

Now it's time to purée! A stick blender is good for this and has the added advantage of spattering the entire kitchen with orange schmutz, which is why I usually use a food processor, working in batches if need be. Once the soup has been liquefied, adjust the thickness by adding a bit of water if necessary. Put in some cumin, salt and ginger, but do it gingerly (heh), since you can adjust it later. Return to the heat, cover and let it simmer over as low a heat as you can manage for the next bits.

I like red lentils for this dish, purely for the color aesthetic, although of course, you can use any sort of lentil you like. Put them in a pot with about twice as much water as lentil and bring it up to a simmer. Keep an eye on it, you want the lentils to be slightly toothsome, since the rest of the soup is so completely smooth. I find red lentils to be a little more delicate in this regard than some of the other lentils; they can go to mush a bit more quickly, so take care. It still ought to take 15 or 20 minutes, though, so you can profitably spend the time making croutons. If you like croutons. I like croutons, so that's what we did.

Making your own croutons is simplicity itself, and let's face it - fried, salty bread is delicious. Heat some oil in a skillet and cut your bread into crouton sized pieces. When the oil is hot add some pieces of bread and sprinkle with salt. The only thing about this which is even slightly tricky is oil temperature management. If the oil isn't hot, the bread will soak it up too quickly and not get all crispy. Therefore, heat the oil first and add the bread in smallish batches. Add more oil if you need to, and I almost always do. Stir the bread so it doesn't burn. That's it.

When the lentils are done, or rather just underdone, add them to the carrots. Mix everything together and give it a taste. It probably will need more ginger and/or cumin and/or salt, so adjust the seasoning to your taste. Remember, though, if you made croutons, they'll also bring salt to the party. Personally, I prefer not to add black pepper to the soup in bulk, but add it at table after the soup has been served. It's prettier that way.

Ideally, the lentils (and croutons) will add a little crunch to the soup without overwhelming the carrot and ginger flavors which should predominate.

© 2013 Jeff Berry
The Aspiring Luddite