Jan and Eilene went on a walking tour of the coast of Devon while they were in England. They stayed at Home Farm, a B&B run by the Stubbs. During the day Michael led them on guided tours of the historic area and at night would come back to food prepared by a master cook. Alison Stubbs is working on writing a cookbook, creating healthy, locally sourced, takes on traditional Devon fare.
One dish she served was a carrot, coconut and ginger soup. Both Jan and Eilene loved this, but had only the vaguest idea of what went into it, besides the three main ingredients. In fact, they were even unsure if Alison had used “coconut water” or “coconut milk” in her recipe. I doubt that I will be able to replicate the perfect balance of these flavors that Jan has described, but the challenge has been set.
The first step is the carrots. No woody Safeway carrots will do. It is off to the farmer’s market to find local, organic, heirloom carrots.
Looking at similar recipes online, they usually include some kind of onion-like aromatic. Which one you should use is all up in the air. I found recipes that had yellow or white onions, leeks, and even green onions. One I did not find, but that seems obvious to me, is shallots. This would give a hint of aromatic sweetness, but not overpower the carrot flavor.
I do not intend to use a lot of coconut milk for the same reason. There should be a hint of coconut, but again it should not dominate. I plan to add it a bit at a time at the end of cooking until it tastes “right.”
I am not planning to use garlic for the same reason. This soup should be all about the carrots. If I think that an ingredient would distract from the three main ingredients, it does not go in. Vegetable broth would only “muddy” the flavor of the carrots. A little chicken broth might give it some depth, but too much would turn it into chicken soup. For this first batch I will use just water.
The only spice that I am sure would pair well with these ingredients is coriander seeds. A pinch of salt would help. But black pepper, I am not sure about. Here I plan to use my “trick” of making the soup, removing a spoonful and testing the seasoning on just that little bit. If a spice does not go well, you have not ruined your whole pot and you can try something else.
The final decision is the amount of ginger. The on-line recipes called for from one to three tablespoons. Alison has spent years tinkering with her recipe to find the perfect balance, a sharp ginger “nip,” but not a distracting “bite.” Again, I will have to add this at the end, bit by bit to find the right balance.
Note: This meal started with the soup that Jan and Eilene had in Devon. The problem for me was in deciding what dishes I could make that would match well with this starter. I finally chose a roast chicken, a cucumber salad and sesame roast potatoes.
Karl’s Carrot, Coconut and Ginger Soup
2 Tbs. butter
½ cup shallots, minced
1½ tsp. coriander seeds, powered
2 lb. carrots, sliced fine
5.6 oz. can coconut milk
2 inch piece of fresh ginger, minced to a paste
1. Sauté the shallots in the butter in a soup pot, until they are translucent but not browning.
2. Add the coriander and cook for one minute more, to bloom the flavor.
3. Add the carrots, salt and 2½ cups of water. Bring the pot to a boil and then reduce the heat. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes, until the carrots are just tender.
4. Let the soup cool slightly and then blend smooth in a standing blender.
Tip: While I like my immersion blender, it would leave the soup chunky. This is something I do not want for this particular soup.
5. Return the soup to the pot and add the coconut milk and ginger.
6. Simmer for five to ten minutes to meld the flavors and serve.