Thursday, February 07, 2008

Coriander-Scented Carrot Soup

Did you know that when you toast coriander seeds, they smell like Trix cereal?

The SmartCook Collection: Soup, the cookbook I was using yesterday to create "Coriander-Scented Carrot Soup" described the scent as "orange-like," but I beg to differ. While there is a distinct citrus element to the scent, if you really get your nose into the seeds after you've pull them from the hot pan and ground them up a little in your mortar, you'll be transported back to Saturday mornings when you were allowed to have the sugar-laden cereals (at least, that's how it was in my house!).

Anyway, this soup was a tad underwhelming. It really just tastes like carrots. And the somewhat strange title is apt: the soup is only coriander "scented": you can't taste the coriander at all. I was surprised at the absence of onions from the recipe, but I tend to give a recipe one chance before I try to improve ie. Next time, I'll definitely sauté some onions with the garlic, because this soup needed something.

The only changes I did make to recipe were:
1) I didn't peel the carrots. I just gave them a good scrubbing.
2) I substituted Greek-style yogurt for the crème fraîche, since I already had the yogurt. Enjoy!

Coriander-Scented Carrot Soup

1 TBSP coriander seeds
2 TBSP butter
2 lbs carrots, peeled and chopped
1 small garlic clove, crushed through a press
5 cups chicken stop or vegetable stock
3 TBSP chopped fresh cilantro, plus sprigs for garnish
2 TBSP crème fraîche or heavy cream, plus more for garnish
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1. Begin by dry-roasting the coriander seeds in a small skillet over medium heat, stirring and tossing them around for 1 to 2 minutes, or until they begin to look toasted and start to jump in the pan. Place them in a mortar and crush them coarsely.
2. Next, heat the butter in a large saucepan, then add the carrots, garlic, and three-quarters of the crushed coriander seeds. Stir well, then cover the saucepan and let the vegetables cook over gentle heat until they begin to soften -- about 10 minutes.
3. Next, add the stock, season with salt and pepper, and bring everything to a boil. Then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, partially covered, or until the vegetables are tender. Let the soup cool a little, then puree it in batches in a blender or food processor (a large bowl to hold each batch of pureed soup is helpful here). After that, return the puree to the saucepan and stir in the chopped cilantro and 2 TBSP of the crème fraîche. Reheat the soup, then taste to check the seasoning, and serve in warmed bowls. Garnish each one with a swirl of crème fraîche, a sprinkling of the remaining toasted coriander seeds, and a sprig of fresh coriander.