Tag Archives: nutmeg

Ginger Turmeric Carrot Soup

 

When I was a little girl, happily engrossed in a snack, chomping on a fistful of carrot sticks, grownups (especially grandparents) used to chuckle and nod in appreciation.

They were tickled pink that I loved those orange roots so much.

“Just like Bugs Bunny, Lynnie, you love them carrots.”

They’d chuckle among themselves, scratch their chins in that thoughtful, elderly way and proclaim, “Carrots, little Lynnie, are not only good for ya, but they’ll put a curl in your hair.”

Curls and carrots were a good thing. Still are. I’ve got a head full of curly strands and in my garden grows some of the least straight, most angled and wayward, thwarted and stopped-up roots ever grown in these parts.

IMG_2302But that hasn’t stopped my love affair with this root.

They were the first veg I fed my babies.  I’d peel dozens of those orange wands, chop them into coins and toss them into a steamer basket. Once tender to the fork, I’d whirl them in my trusty food processor, adding just enough of the cooking liquid to create a fresh, real carrot puree bound for the mouths of my babes.

I remember the bright orange stains on their bibs and the way they’d open their tiny mouths like hungry baby birds.  Absolute delight welled up in this maternal heart as I fed such pure, nourishing orangeness on a little, plastic-coated baby spoon to my happy little charges.

IMG_0220Carrot soup is not that far a leap from baby food.

It’s a pure puree meant for adult tastes including complex flavours that hop around the carrots, not unlike Bugs, but with more flavour than a cartoon can ever conjure. Ginger, a fellow root, pairs so sublimely with carrots, cutting a little of the sweetness and giving it a sideways spike. Turmeric, that currently trendy Asian rhizome that is popping up in lattes and milky teas,  deepens a carrot’s  orange into a golden crimson, while leaving yellowed tattoos on your fingers when freshly grated.

But the real kicker is in the stock — the foundational rock of any soup.  My cheat for any soup that stars vegetables-only is a super-slow-cooked chicken stock.  It adds a magical velvet to the soup’s texture while leaving a sparkling, golden sheen on the surface.

I know vegetarians and vegans will simply bypass that remark and enjoy this soup just as much, if not more, without the poultry.  I won’t even wonder what Looney Tunes could chime in with —  but I bet it would make this elder chuckle.

 

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Ginger Turmeric Carrot Soup

If your freezer isn’t full of homemade stock, bouillon cubes will suffice. Taste the results before adding salt to the soup as most cubes are sky-high in sodium.

2 tbsp coconut oil

1 red onion, chopped

2 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated

2-inch piece fresh turmeric, peeled and finely grated/ 1 tsp turmeric powder

5 cups (10-12 medium)  carrots, chopped

6 cups defatted, homemade chicken stock

1 cup coconut milk

4 kaffir lime leaves (or 2 bay leaves)

1 ½ tsp salt

Freshly ground pepper

Freshly ground nutmeg

Fresh lime wedges

Freshly chopped coriander and/or mint

Heat coconut oil in a large pot on medium high.  Add onion, ginger and turmeric cooking 3-5 min or until soft and fragrant.  Add carrots, stock, coconut milk, lime or bay leaves, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer, cooking 15-20 min or until the carrots are tender soft.  Remove the lime or bay leaves and purée the hot soup with a hand-held immersion blender. Taste before seasoning with salt and pepper. Garnish with freshly ground nutmeg, lime juice, a dollop of yogurt or freshly chopped coriander and mint leaves.

The rub on spices

Decades ago, I warned Toronto Star readers in my “Taste of Asia” column to throw out any ground spices and herbs in their cupboards older than six months. I said they were past their prime. Defunct. Bad stuff.

No one likes a bossy food writer, so I tried to soften the tone and replace visions of global spice carnage with a gentle challenge: Close your eyes, open a random bottle and take a whiff.IMG_2593

“If you can’t smell anything, toss it,” I cajoled.

Well, I’m still on a spice rant after all these years. Commercially dried and ground spices and herbs lose most of their je ne sais quoi the moment they are harvested and processed, for it is at this juncture that their flavour-filled essential oils begin to degrade.

It gets worse.

When herbs and spices are ground into a powder, they are exposed to the ravages of oxidization and time… especially if they fall into obscurity in a deranged spice drawer like mine.

Luckily, mine underwent a radical makeover last week. I threw out all the wizened and yellowed dried red peppers, aroma-less ground powders of dubious distinction and the contents of any package, bottle or tin box that landed in said drawer prior to 2015 – with the exception of nutmeg.IMG_2545

I’m the proud owner of some relatively ancient nutmeg nuts, encased in shells and decorated with a fancy filament of mace. They come from Grenada and I began to horde them after several culinary visits to the Spice Island of the Caribbean. Alas, these nutmegs have broken all my self-imposed “Spice and Herb Guidelines”. They demonstrate incredible flavour once I hack off the shell with the blunt end of a knife and finely grate with my Cuisipro rasp.IMG_2586

The places this nutmeg goes! Sometimes it’s just a sprinkle over a Grenada-style rum punch. Or, a teaspoon into garam masala bound for a Punjabi-style curry. So alive are my nutmeg relics that a taster at my table recently detected a single smidgen slipped into a creamy, rich Yukon gold potato gratin.

Despite an undeniably close connection to the ever-popular nutmeg, mace is one loner of a spice. It boasts a well-known affinity with pumpkin, but just doesn’t seem to pop up on the recipe radar otherwise. You can imagine my glee, when I stumbled on a rub recipe calling for a whopping teaspoon of the stuff. I had some whole mace at my fingertips and was ready to put it through the grinder.

IMG_2545I simply peeled the lacy filaments off my whole nutmegs and placed them in my trusty spice blender that has continued to get revved up over all the cumin, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom (green and black), peppercorns, hot peppers, coriander, all spice, fennel and fenugreek I have been feeding it for the past three decades.

In went the mace filaments and out came a surprisingly pumpkin-toned powder that tasted more pungent and citrusy than its soul-sister nutmeg. When I closed my eyes and did a side-by-side sniff of the two, it was difficult to tell them apart. No wonder McCormick spice’s web site suggests putting either one in many of the same destinations, be it custards, eggnog, spice-filled quick breads or dusted on steamed veggies like carrots or sugar snap peas.IMG_2546IMG_2550

Back to the rub, which I spotted in my beloved Joy of Cooking but as per usual, put my own riff on. I chose it not only for the mace, but all the roasted cumin and cracked peppercorns.

Admittedly, cumin is my favourite. Sometimes I grind it raw, but I’m more apt to first toast the seeds in a dry frying pan over medium heat until they start to smoke. (Dry-frying spices is a risky venture as there’s a fine line between browning and burning. It helps to keep a sample of raw cumin seeds nearby as you dry-fry, to offer a visual comparison.) I like to grind the cumin seeds while they’re hot so as to savour the hot cloud of nutty cumin smoke released when the lid comes off.

IMG_2554I used my Thai mortar and pestle to crack or coarsely grind the black peppercorns used in this rub. To add authenticity, I took my hulking mortar outside, placed it on my back deck and visualized the northern Thai town of Fang where I saw countless fine cooks squat and pound – a satisfying way to approach this kitchen tool and more effective than placing it on a kitchen counter.

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Last but not least, salt. If you like smoky flavours, check out Salish, an Alderwood smoked sea salt.

 

 

Smokey, toasty pork rub

Get out your spice grinder and have some fun concocting this gorgeous mixture. Whole nutmeg nuts can be found in Kensington or St Lawrence Market or Little India. Try this on grilled pork chops, baby back ribs or slow-cooked pork shoulder. Rub one tablespoon per pound just prior to cooking or better still, rub and refrigerate overnight.

½ cup sweet or smoked paprika

¼ cup ground roasted cumin

¼ cup packed brown sugar

¼ cup cracked/coarsely ground black peppers

2 tbsp hot cayenne powder

2 tbsp sea salt

1 tbsp chile guajillo molido (or any mild chile powder)

1 tbsp smoked salt

2 tsp mace

© 2015 Madeleine Greey

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