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.

Ground lamb curry & FOO Asian Street Food

There’s nothing like the thrill of an Asian food find for an eater like me. Especially when the food is found in Victoria.  In the rain.  On Yelp. When we least expected it.

FOO Asian Street Food (769 Yates Street) is not a fancy place. Like many of its Vancouver Island brethren, this funky hole-in-the-wall demands lining up before you can order and snag a seat. At FOO the seating is slim:  no more than a dozen stools line the perimeter of the order/waiting area.

Emma and I dashed in from out of the rain and were instantly slammed (in a pleasant, food-lover’s-way) by the smell of the place. The air was thick with stir-fried oil, Thai basil, chillies, toasted seaweed and Jasmine rice. FOO’S menu, along with daily specials, were in big print on the blackboard. Reading it was veritable candy to my Asian-cuisine-starved eyes:  curries, noodles, stir-fries, dahls, sweet and sour soups,  and crazy specials like poutine with Szechuan peppercorn gravy or fries done up Togarishi-style with spicy house furikake and fermented chili mayo.

Better still, the woman at the cash taking our order was mean. She had an edgy, crowded city attitude that delights masochistic and hungry metropolitans like me.

We ordered hot fried bread and chutney to whet our appetites along with two local brews: a can of Fat Tug (Driftwood IPA) and a tall bottle of Hoyt Pilsner. IMG_1897

Because our stools were squished near the cash counter, I leaned over, smiled senior-sweetly and asked the Cash Lady if the fried bread contained chickpea flour.

She could barely contain her disgust.

“Chickpea flour?!” she scoffed.  “We’d never do that, ever.” Then she guffawed.

Okay, maybe I should have guessed turmeric.  I know they secretly tuck something into these professionally deep-fried triangles of golden-hued, super moist bread.  Each bite took the edge off our hunger.

Next up, seared morsels of rare, albacore tuna were spread out like a deck of cards over a tangle of cold soba noodles and cucumber ribbons bathed in a sesame-miso vinaigrette.  Pad Thai was ratcheted up a notch with charred scallions instead of plain old green onions.  But it was the Curried Noodle Stir-Fry that stole my foodie heart, with morsels of cha siu bbq pork, succulent shrimp and truly al dente Shanghai noodles. IMG_1900

I lied. It was the Sweet and Sour Pork Belly with tamarind glaze served with spicy green beans that stole all our hearts. Each one of these pork mouthfuls had us groaning, its flavourful fat such a yummy counterpoint to the salty pork.img_1895.jpg

Just below the blackboards manning the open kitchen, two young chefs in black T-shirts slammed, shook, tossed and sautéed non-stop. Working eight unrelenting gas burners on super high, each like a blow-torch, these guys have no time for comments or questions from Plebeians like sweet, little old me. I watched them ladle in sauces, drop in handfuls of noodles, sprinkle fistfuls of shrimp, pork or tofu and slide steaming contents into one big white bowl after another.  It was an endless stream of expert deliciousness overseen by the Cash Lady managing both the line-up and take-out call ins.

“You can pick up in an hour,” she told one caller, “Want it sooner? Try McDonalds.”

Luckily, we experienced no wait. We were at the front of the line both visits and food arrived swiftly.  After the first FOO visit, we started plotting our return, despite the more than hour drive into Victoria over a mountain pass, no less.

It was the Ground Lamb Curry’s fault. I didn’t tell you, dear reader, about its rich and layered meat sauce, redolent with a dozen spices and so superbly satisfying. The blackboard advertised it as “Indian spiced lamb” but it was so much more than those three words.  I swear those line cooks had pulled every flavour out of their toolboxes to create this glistening, gravy infused lamb creation, sweetly offset with green peas, lying on a soft white bed of basmati.IMG_1904

There were four of us all fighting over the Ground Lamb Curry on our second visit. It was a magical flavour equation that I had to recreate in my kitchen.

As every cook will attest, ingredients are 90 per cent of a recipe’s success. I jumped on two packages of frozen, farm-raised ground lamb from the Yesteryear stall at the Duncan Farmers’ Market.  Later, I pounced on fresh, very unwrinkled turmeric root at The Community Farm Store, also in Duncan. My spice drawer had recently been supplemented by a happy, inaugural stroll through Sabzi Mandi Supermarket in Nanaimo. The finishing green garnish would be a handful of mint from the burgeoning mass under our willow tree and another, from a clump of cilantro in the raised beds. (Miraculously, cilantro (fresh coriander) self-seeds here on the island.)

And because I am so humble, I attest that the only difference between my Ground Lamb Curry and Foo’s is me.  I am the final 10 per cent of this recipe’s success.

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Herd Road Ground Lamb Curry with Peas and Mint

This is the same and different from Foo Asian Street Food’s ground lamb curry.

2 cooking onions, quartered

6 garlic cloves

2 inches ginger

2 inches turmeric

Peel and chop onion, garlic, ginger and turmeric.  Whirl into a paste in a food processor, adding ¼ – ½  cup water.

In large frying pan, heat  two tablespoons oil and saute onion paste until golden, about 3 minutes.

In a small mortar and pestle, crush:

1 hot dried pepper

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 tsp coriander seeds

½ tsp fennel seeds

½ tsp black peppercorns

1 ½ tsp coarse sea salt

Add to onion mixture and saute 1-2 minutes.

Add:

4 tbsp tomato paste

½ cup coconut milk

Bring to a boil and simmer gently for a few minutes.

Add

2 lbs ground lamb

3 tsp garam masala

Cook on medium heat until lamb is brown.  Add 1 1/2 cups water.  Cover and simmer on extreme low for 20 minutes

Add:

1 ½ cups frozen peas

2-4 small fresh green hot peppers

2 tsp anardhana (dried pomegranate) * optional

1 tbsp lemon juice

¼ cup chopped fresh mint leaves

¼ cup chopped fresh coriander

Simmer until peas are tender.  Serve on steamed basmati rice.

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