For years I have had a recipe for carrot soup that I enjoy making. It has a fair amount of butter, but it is delicious and still fairly light. For my carrot soup recipe, I have the following ingredients:
- 1/4 cup of butter
- 1/2 onion (or more if you like onion)
- 1 clove of garlic (again, if you like more, make it 2…or 3.. :))
- 2.5 cups of carrots, chopped
- 5 cups of chicken or vegetable stock (it calls for water, but I prefer stock)
- 1/4 cup of long grain rice, uncooked (for thickening, I think)
- Seasoning: herbs or spices (more on this in a bit), salt and pepper
The recipe is easy.
- Get out all your ingredients and prepare them (e.g. chop the onions, mince the garlic, roughly chop the carrots).
- Put a pot on a burner on medium heat. It should be big enough to contain all these ingredients (at least 3 L / 3 Qt)
- Melt the butter in the pot. Once it stops sizzling, add the onion and garlic and stir around until the onion and garlic are soft. Don’t brown them. (2-5 minutes, depending on the pan you use and your burner).
- Add the rest of the ingredients, save the seasoning
- Turn up the heat to high and bring it to a boil, then turn the heat down to low and simmer for 20 minutes until the carrots have softened. Put a lid on it while it simmers.
- Once the carrots are soft, puree them. As for me, I use a hand blender from Braun. In the worst case, mash ’em up then use a whisk to make the soup silky smooth.
- Add seasoning until it tastes the way you like.
So that’s the basic carrot soup recipe.
Now if you like that, try replacing the carrots with other root vegetables. I used parsnips the other day and that was delicious. I am going to try sweet potatoes next. Also try combos: if you have one parsnip and a bag of carrots, make carrot-parsnip soup. I start by getting a deal on root vegetables and go from there. You know those soon to be tossed out veggies at the supermarket or local green grocer? Those are cheap and are great in this recipe.
For carrot soup, I prefer adding herbs like thyme or chives as a seasoning. A good parsley works, as will tarragon. For the parsnip soup, I found spices go well and I used Asian garlic-hot sauce and that was great. Curry powder would be good, and blends like herbes de Provence are also good. Heck, you could even try a dash of lemon or lime juice or even Tabasco or HP sauce if you like. (If you are experimenting, try it in an individual bowl first, rather than on the entire pot of soup. That way, if you overdo it, you have only ruined part of the soup.)
If you like a thicker soup, change the ratio of liquids to carrots. Right now it is 2:1 in terms of quantity. For a thinner soup, try 3:1. For a thicker soup, try 3:2 or 1:1. (If you make it too thick, just slowly add warm broth until it is the way you like it).
For other ideas, check out this recipe: Golden Carrot Soup with Mozzarella. Note the carrot to liquid ratio is the same, but they replace the stock with milk to make it a creamier soup. Nice! Also, they add cheese. (Hey, it’s by the Daily Farmers! :)) These are all great ideas, but I like my simple and humble soup.
Please stick with the 1/4 cup of butter. I think a bowl of this soup has around 100-150 calories, but the butter makes it delicious, and you need some fat.
Experiment with herbs and spices. Whenever you see a nice spice combination, for example in a Jamaican or African inspired dish, mix up a batch of the herb or spice combination and put it in a spare pepper shaker and then shake it into your soup. (And once you have this shaker, you can use it on baked fish, roasts, grilled veggies, rice, etc.)
Try adding some canned beans to the soup (e.g. 1/8-1/4 cup of chickpeas per soup bowl) for some additional protein. Make sure they get a chance to warm in the soup before you serve it. You can add left over meats (e.g., sausage, rotisserie chicken) to it. Sometime those additional bits of meat that don’t look good on your dinner plate will look great in your soup.
Cooked pasta (without sauce) that was left over the night before will also go well with the soup. Indeed, soup is a great way to use up things. If you have some leftover corn, or peas, or green or yellow beans, they would also go well.
Of course dried bread, crackers or croutons also go well with purreed soup. Again another way to use up bread starting to dry out. (Plus if you add in after seasoning, they will thicken up the soup more.
Try replacing the onion with related vegetables like leeks (perfect with potatoes) or vidalia or red onions. If you use a nice looking onion, put a bit aside, chop up finely, then garnish the soup with it before you serve it. Likewise, if you have some roasted red peppers in your fridge — I keep a bottle around — they also look good chopped up and garnished on your soup.
The key is to start with a basic recipe and then try different ideas.
Anyway, I am not a professional chef, but this works for me, and it should work for you too. Let me know what you do!