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Dublin: 4 °C Monday 27 January, 2020
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A healthy New Year recipe: One caramelised carrot soup, done 12 ways

Here’s an easy and adaptable recipe from Susan Jane White’s latest book, Clever Batch.

Susan Jane White

IT’S THE NEW year, and after the wonderful indulgences of Christmas you might fancy dipping your toes back into the world of vegetables.

Luckily this recipe from Susan Jane White’s book Clever Batch – which is all about, as the name suggests, batch-cooking your way into a healthier lifestyle, without the dreariness – is both simple and also capable of being served up 12 different ways.

Caramelised Carrot Soup

Makes 1.5 litres

Ingredients

2 medium white onions, peeled and quartered
700g carrots, chopped
4 tablespoons olive or coconut oil
Good shake of flaky sea salt
2 pinches of whole cumin seeds (optional)
1–1.5 litres water

One soup, 12 ways:

  1. Top with avocado sour cream (below). Fry a handful of fresh sage leaves in oil for 2 minutes over a high heat until fragrant and crisp and scatter on top.
  2. The recipe for pistachio dust below will serve you well.
  3. Harissa butter (below). Drop into a bowl of hot carrot soup, straight from the freezer.
  4. Toasted pumpkin seeds and crème fraîche. Dry-fry the seeds in a frying pan over your highest heat setting, until swollen and crisp.
  5. Burnt raisins and caraway seed. Heat a frying pan with 1-2 tablespoons of coconut oil or ghee and add a handful of raisins. Stir until they turn chewy on the outside and are swollen on the inside, simply add a pinch of whole caraway seeds while frying.
  6. Top with garlic yogurt (below).
  7. Sriracha chilli sauce (below).
  8. Add black sesame salt and fried cubes of halloumi.
  9. Grate over ginger from the freezer. Organic orange zest is also ace.
  10. 10. This soup can be often used as a pasta sauce with fusilli for kids.
  11. Try some refried beans, like black beans in coconut oil, and chilli flakes with kefir cream (below).
  12. Swirl through vegan cream, like the hemp garlic cream or coconut yogurt below, and sprinkle over lightly roasted slivers of almonds.

Fire up your oven to 190°C. Find your two largest roasting trays.

You can even use three trays, if necessary.

Tumble the onion wedges and chopped carrots into one tray, gloss with plenty of olive or coconut oil and sea salt, then divide between one or two additional roasting trays. You want your veg to have plenty of space between each other and room to caramelise. If the veg are packed beside one another, they will sweat and stew instead of caramelise. Shake over the cumin seeds (if using).

Roast in the oven for 30 minutes, until soft, sweet and sticky around the edges. Take the trays out of the oven to briefly cool. A few onion pieces will be burned – ditch these.

Pulse in a free-standing blender with your water until smooth. I do this in two batches.
Store in the fridge until required or freeze in clean jam jars for a later date. I label the soup using masking tape and a black marker – both survive extreme freezer conditions!

Avocado sour cream

For a good dose of healthy bacteria, you can simply serve sour cream or natural yogurt with your Friday night curry. But I love the sound of avocado sour cream – it’s like a muezzin for cranky vegan teens.

Serves 4 – 6

  • 3 ripe avocados, halved, stoned and flesh scooped out
  • Trickle of fresh water
  • Squeeze of fresh lemon
  • Freshly cracked black pepper
  • Generous pinch of flaky sea salt

In a Vitamix or high-speed blender, pelt the avocado flesh, splash of water and a dash of lemon together until lusciously silky and smooth. Season to your preferred taste (I go heavy on the flaky salt, but if serving this to kids, it won’t need any seasoning).
Serve alongside curries, with your favourite fish, smothered on toast or offer to your teens with tortillas and a smug giggle (a smuggle?). Namaste.

Pistachio Dust

Little comets of deliciousness. Store in an airtight jam jar somewhere visible in the kitchen so that you can sprinkle this over porridge, soups, suppers and eggs.

Makes 1 small jar

1 packet of salted and roasted pistachios

Shell your pistachios. In a pestle and mortar, pound the nuts into small pieces. You can also do this by wrapping the shelled nuts inside a clean tea towel and use a rolling pin to smash them up. Their glorious green colour will shine through.

Harissa Butter

One blast of this butter will have you trotting like a fiesty showhorse. There is electrifying happiness to be found inside cayenne pepper. It’s not simply the mild heat hot-wiring your dimples. It is, in fact, the active compounds within the pepper that tickle our feel-good endorphins.

Special Agent Capsaicin is responsible for this biochemical effect. Surprisingly, capsaicin’s real prowess does not lie within its antioxidant taekwondo moves. Capsaicin is a brilliant agitator. As we freak out to cope with the blaze of a hot chilli, for example, our body releases an armada of natural painkillers in direct response to the capsaicin content. These endorphins canter through our bloodstream like nectar in our veins. Is it any wonder why that Friday night vindaloo is so damn popular?

Makes 8–10 servings

  • 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
  • 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
  • 1 tablespoon caraway seeds
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and minced
  • 6 tablespoons butter or ghee, softened
  • 1 tablespoon ground paprika
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • Squeeze of lemon 
  • Pinch of fine sea salt
  • Pinch of chipotle chilli or cayenne
  • Pepper

Fire up a frying pan and dry-toast the coriander, cumin and caraway seeds until your nostrils start to party. Stir continuously with a wooden spoon to avoid scorching.

Transfer to a pestle and mortar or a coffee grinder and pulverise to a powder. Now beat in the remaining ingredients. Spoon into a silicone ice cube tray, freeze until firm and
transfer to a marked freezer bag. It’s a thing of beauty. When the mood beckons, pop a frozen cube of harissa butter on top of toast with eggs or you can snazzjazzle a boring soup.

Roasted Garlic Finishing Yogurt

Can’t stand raw garlic? Nuff said, sista. Start with this easy recipe for roasted garlic. Creamy, subtle and luscious, it’s an excellent substitute for mayonnaise in sambos. Use roasted garlic paste as a kitchen Band-Aid any time something needs a lift. Mashed potato? A despondent bowl of pasta? A timid soup? All benefit from frolicking
with a dollop of roasted garlic paste.

Makes 8 servings

1 head of garlic 

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 large tub of natural yogurt
Boost your oven to 200ºC.

Chop the garlic head in half horizontally across the bulb rather than top to toe. Splash a small roasting tray with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Sit the bulb halves directly on the oil, cut side down.

Roast in the oven on the middle shelf for 20–25 minutes, until soft and mushy. You can check by gently lifting one of the garlic heads to reveal lots of soft cloves of garlic in their papery pods.

Taste one. It should be creamy. If the garlic head is browning too quickly, place some foil over the tray. 

Once cooked, allow the garlic cloves to cool on the tray inside their tiny pods. As soon as they’re cool enough to handle, remove the cloves with a fork and mash with the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil. This paste will keep in the fridge for one week, to use whenever and wherever you deem delightful.

To make the finishing yogurt, stir a little roasted garlic paste through the tub of natural yogurt. Taste and see if it requires more garlic. You can also freeze the remaining roasted garlic paste for another day.

Sriracha Chilli Sauce

Sriracha has become quite the tickle in certain postcodes across Ireland. It’s the cheapest legal high on the market right now, second to icy morning swims and slo-mos of Daniel Leavy. 

A hot, fermented chilli sauce, sriracha ramps up sufficient voltage in my bloodstream to power a rural village. If you’re lucky enough to try it, expect your heart to feel like a propeller taking off through your chest.

Here’s the science. A devious compound found inside the chilli stimulates a carnival of feel-good endorphins. These clever compounds belong to the capsaicin family, also thought to be responsible for some impressive Mr Miyagi moves against inflammation in the body.

Then there’s the delicious sting you get from a chilli, suspiciously like smoking a cigarette the wrong way around. That explosive heat ironically carries pain relief properties (the chilli, not the cigarette) while simultaneously igniting your toes and your tonsils. Watt’s not to love?! (Boom boom.) You’ll even find over-the-counter capsaicin cream for sprains and strains. Groovy, eh?

Traditional sriracha is carefully cooked, strained and lactofermented, but I can’t be bothered with so many steps for a simple high, so I make this copycat version. The trick is to freeze fresh sriracha in a small ice cube tray as soon as it’s made. Now you’ll have
it on tap whenever you fancy spicing up your life.

Makes 12–14 servings.

10 medium-sized fresh red chillies, topped 

2 red peppers, deseeded and topped 

3 garlic cloves, sliced

1 generous lime, juiced

Thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger, peeled and sliced 

1 tablespoon nam pla (fish sauce)

Place all your prepped ingredients in a high-speed blender and pulverise until smooth. I prefer to leave in the chilli seeds for extra flames. Pour into a silicone ice cube tray and freeze until, eh, frozen.

Pop them out of your tray and transfer them into a recycled freezer bag marked ‘hot and spicy sriracha’. When you want to ignite a boring supper or guest, pop one of these into your dish from frozen. Or defrost thoroughly for 1 hour if serving chilled with avocado toast, for example. Namaste.

Milk Kefir

Kefir is not another cranky health food reserved for the Birkenstock brigade. Nope. Kefir is yogurt’s low-maintenance, tarty cousin. When can you meet? Today! Find kefir grains in the refrigerated section at your local health food store.

The grains burp and feed on whole milk, gobbling up the natural milk sugars and lactose. All those gorgeous bacteria multiply faster than grass through a goose. What you’re left with is a funky ferment more potent than natural yogurt.

Use organic milk, raw milk, goat’s milk, even coconut milk. I drink kefir straight up on ice, but yogi types like to flavour their kefir with second ferments using honey and vanilla pods. Kefir is also really great with spicy curries to help your taste buds and mascara
weather the heat. It makes a rather brilliant marinade for meat, replaces buttermilk in baking recipes and sings with soft cheese as a last-minute mash-up for spreads.

Makes 500ml

  • 2–3 tablespoons milk kefir grains 
  • 500ml full-fat milk

Using a clean 500ml glass jar, pop the kefir grains in with your preferred type of milk.
Cover the top of the jar with kitchen paper, secure with a rubber band and leave on your kitchen counter for 24–36 hours to ferment.

When the desired tang is achieved, remove the kefir grains with a plastic sieve and pop into another 500ml of fresh milk to start the process all over again. Your kefir can be refrigerated or guzzled straight away to boot up your flora.

If you aren’t reusing the kefir grains straight away, they can be stored in a little whole milk for one week in the fridge. The milk will be perfectly good to use – chilled temperatures merely slow down the fermentation process. It’s okay to keep extra kefir
grains in the freezer too.

Cheat’s Kefir

Get your mitts on some really good sour cream. Find some storebought milk kefir in the refrigerated drinks section (usually alongside smoothies or kombucha, for example). Then loosen up the chilled sour cream by pouring in a little kefir. Leave overnight to ferment (or serve straight away, as it’s bloody gorgeous with curries). Fist. Bump.

Hemp Garlic Cream

This makes a wonderful dairy-free pouring cream that’s excellent with curries, stews and ragù. Yes, hemp seeds come from the same plant species as marijuana, but it is entirely legal and nonpsychoactive, I’m afraid. Hemp seeds are very tasty things, so it’s a welcome bonus that they’re healthy too.

Makes 200ml

  • 125ml water
  • 75g hulled hemp hearts (hemp seeds) 
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • Juice of 1 small lemon 
  • Pinch of flaky sea salt

Blitz all the ingredients in a high-powered blender until sumptuously smooth. You’re looking for the familiar consistency of pouring cream. Add an extra pinch of flaky salt if you think it needs a lift. Best served within 48 hours.

Coconut Yogurt

Here’s a recipe to feed that teeming metropolis in your microbiome. It will bring your Friday night curry to another cosmology.

Makes 400–500ml

1 x 200g block of creamed coconut 

300–400ml warmed coconut water (or filtered water)

¼ teaspoon vanilla bean extract (optional dessert mode) 

1 capsule of live probiotics 

Chop the coconut cream into small chunks. Tip into a high-speed blender along with the warmed coconut water and optional vanilla. Blend until sumptuously smooth.

Pour into a scrupulously clean glass bowl. Open and add the contents of your probiotic capsule. Stir with a wooden spoon.

Cover with kitchen paper and an elastic band. We keep ours on the warm kitchen counter for 24 hours, which does the trick. If your kitchen is not warm, you could try the hot press to achieve similar results – you’re aiming for around 26°C. If it’s particularly warm, 18 hours should be plenty of time to let the culture multiply. It should taste refreshingly tart. Every 6 hours, or when I remember, I whisk it to ensure a smooth consistency and to prevent the mixture splitting.

After 18–30 hours (when you have achieved your preferred level of tartness), refrigerate and gobble within seven days. We love serving cool creamy clouds of this yogurt alongside granola. 

It’s also great as a natural icing on kids’ cupcakes or dolloped on top of spicy curries.

Susan Jane White is an award-winning food writer and columnist with the Sunday Independent. At 25, she developed a serious immune disorder which marked the beginning of her nutritional pilgrimage and career in wholefoods cooking. Her first book, The Extra Virgin Kitchen, debuted at number one, while her second book, The Virtuous Tart, bagged an Irish Book Award. She lives in Dublin with her husband and two little vandals. Clever Batch is published by Gill Books, priced at €24.99.

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