Curried Purple Carrots & Lentil Soup
The day is coming when a single carrot, freshly observed, will set off a revolution.
So said Paul Cezanne at the end of the nineteenth century. He would be surprised at today’s proliferation of markets, shops, books and tv networks devoted to food & cooking. Yet few of us actually cook from the most basic ingredients – scratch that is.
In the markets, I am often asked – What should I buy today? How do I cook it? As a trained cook with a collection of thousands of cookbooks and a passion for well informed websites like The Feed Feed and Food 52, I often have a suggestion.
Early October is always the best time in the markets – carts full of fall harvest heirloom tomatoes are stacked next to oddly shaped fairy eggplants and squash in all shapes and sizes. I love the bounty of herbs and root vegetables. My very favorites are the stacks of colored carrots.
Carrots are a funny vegetable – ubiquitous – but there is nothing like the taste of a fresh dug carrot with it’s hidden sweetness. This is where the season and the farmer come into play. If you truly get in touch with a carrot, you have a connection to the soil, the rain, the sunshine and the love of the farmer. It may even start a grander aspiration according to Paul Cezanne. I love the gorgeous colored carrots – orange, red, yellow, white and purple – with memories of my 5 year old pulling them from the soil at Quail Hill Farm to great astonishment.
Before the Seventeenth century, almost all cultivated carrots were purple. The modern day orange carrot wasn’t cultivated until the late Sixteenth century when Dutch growers took mutant strains of the purple carrot and gradually developed them into the sweet, plump, orange variety we have today. Much like the Dutch alchemy with tulips.
Carrots have a fairly long life and can be cellared over the fall and into winter. At the wildly successful localavour restaurant Noma Rene Redzepi served two year old carrots with great success and that concept always inspired me. With larger or older carrots a long slow roast in the oven draws out the promise of sweetness. The texture is different but the flavor is deep and rich with the promise of the flavor of spring.
I have a refrigerator full of these glorious carrots. I decided to make something that would be a break from the expected. Pairing carrots with my favorite flavors of ginger and cumin – I made a hearty soup with the addition of lentils. This is dairy free, gluten free, nutritious, and suitable for both vegans and vegetarians. Pair this with a healthy salad for a fine plant based lunch.
Curried Purple Carrots & Lentil Soup
5 pounds Carrots – I used both orange and purple
1 Sweet Onion
3 T Olive oil or any suitable vegetable oil
2 t Sea Salt
3 T Sweet Curry Powder – Sometimes known as Royal Curry
1 T Cumin Spice
2 Cloves of Garlic
2 Ribs of Celery
2 Quarts Vegetable Stock
1 1 1/2 “ Piece of Fresh Ginger – minced
1 Cup Red Lentils – picked over and rinsed in water
1/4 cup Fresh Coriander – Chopped
1) Wash and peel the carrots – I save the peels for stock. Chop the carrots into even sized pieces. Even sized pieces means that the carrots will cook evenly when added to the stock.
2) Peel, slice and chop the onion
3) Add the 3 T olive oil to the stock pot. When the oil is hot, you see rippling in the oil. Add the curry powder and cumin spice. Cook over the heat for 1 to 2 minutes to “toast”the spice.
4) Add the chopped onions and the 2 t sea salt.
5) When the onions go limp add the celery and the garlic. It is important to just sweat the vegetables to extract their flavor be careful not to burn them.
6) Add the two quarts of vegetable stock and bring to a boil.
7) Add the chopped carrots and cover. Simmer for 20 minutes.
8) Add the minced ginger and the red lentils. Cook over a low heat until the carrots are soft and the lentils break down. Red lentils cook quickly, are highly nutritious and act as a thickening agent for the soup.
9) Although the soup can be eaten as it, I like passing it through a food mill or puree with an emersion blender.
10) Test for salt and add chopped coriander as a garnish.
Honestly, you can’t go wrong with this.