Vegetable soups are one of the most practical foods you can make. They usually take up 45mins – 1h of your time and they guarantee a delicious starter for your next 5-6 meals, depending on how much you make. They are creamy, comforting and they warm up your body in the winter or cool it down in the summer. It is obvious I am a bit obsessed with soups but they make life so easy!
This week I’ve decided to focus on yellow recipes. This carrot & basil soup is my 2 out of 3 recipes for the week and, although the most basic version of it is orange, the basil (green) in it gives it the yellowish tone. The recipe is quite simple and it follows the regular soup base I use for all winter recipes: onion + potatoes + vegetable X + water. In this recipe, I’ve taken some advice from my aunt Merce: I’ve used sweet potatoes instead of regular ones, 2 instead of 1, as carrots have a high (87%) content of water, so the sweet potatoes give a creamy consistency to the soup. Carrots can also be somewhat bland and boring when cooked, in comparison to their raw crunchier self, so sweet potatoes add a bit of sweetness and flavour too.
Typically I like my soups simple. I add few spices or “extras”, and if I do, I make sure they don’t steal the main vegetable’s thunder in the process. I got the idea of adding turmeric and ginger from Feasting at Home’s carrot soup recipe, and although I loved the turmeric kick, I didn’t quite enjoy the ginger as much, in this recipe. For a while now I’ve been adding turmeric to lots of recipes. I love the colour, the taste (kind of weird and surprising at the beginning), but most of all, all the beneficial properties it is claimed to have. It has been used for thousands of years in Ayurvedic medicine “to balance the three doshas, stimulate and purify the blood, protect and fortify the liver, assist in balancing our hormones, help with digestion, and heal and soothe the skin”. It is considered to be anti-inflammatory and an antioxidant.
However, if you do some research you will see that, within the medical community, there is some disagreement around the degree to which turmeric can be beneficial. It seems like one big problem is that curcumin is not easily absorbed by our bodies, which adds a layer of difficulty to any research done, as measuring the potential effects of curcuminoids (the main active component in turmeric) becomes challenging. Something I’ve read a few times now is that piperine (the alkaloid responsible for the pungency of black pepper), paired with turmeric, “improves the bioavailability of curcumin by 1000 times”. If you are interested in how this happens, watch this short video.
In one of the articles that disagrees with the claimed benefits of turmeric, I read something said by a dietitian that I quite agree with: “curcumin is no cure-all, just like no other single nutrient isolated and extracted from a food, or for that matter, any one food itself”. I see her point. Many trendy superfoods (goji berries, algae, maca, pea- and other plant-based proteins, avocados…) are not superfoods by themselves, they can be beneficial for us, but they need to be combined and introduced in an already healthy diet that allows them to “shine” bright.
An example… If you eat a bacon sandwich and some donuts for lunch, but add a slice of avocado to the sandwich and a pinch of turmeric to the donut, don’t expect those 2 superfoods to do wonders and make up for the other more unhealthy stuff. If you Google “food pairings” or “combination superfoods” you will find many articles telling you how to make the most out of the foods you eat and how to best combine them. Some popular ones would be:
Grains + Legumes = complete proteins e.g. rice and lentils
Non-heme (plant-based) iron + Vit C = higher iron absorption e.g. green beans and tomatoes
Catechins + Citrus = powerful antioxidants e.g. green tea and lemon juice
If you are interested in knowing more about food synergies, you can listen to this podcast.
Even though I’ve been cooking for my body more than for my soul, lately, my interest in food goes beyond nutrition. I find flavour combination, for example, extremely interesting, and complex too. Understanding the science behind what we eat comes easier to me because it is about the facts, the biochemistry; it is objective. There is probably some science in how to best combine flavours, but it is a more subjective and mysterious field. I have a book, that I got as a gift from my mom last Christmas, called The Flavour Thesaurus, which is on my night table at the moment, waiting to be discovered, and which talks about this.
Anyway, back to the soup! Initially, I planned to add basil as a simple garnish to the soup, but I ended up liking the taste of a bunch of basil leaves blended in the soup. I did a bit of testing beforehand and, although I love the simple basic carrot soup, I think that the basil adds a nice herby sweetness to it. I was concerned that the fresh herb would become oxidated during the few days I keep the soup in the fridge, so I added a bit of lime juice to help prevent that (not sure this actually has had any real effect though). I’ve eaten this soup for 3 days now and it tastes just fine, colour of the soup and basil look good too.
My friend Paula has already tried making it and she believes the recipe is worth sharing. If you try making it, please let me know in the comment section below. If you have any suggestions, comments or feedback about the recipe, these are welcome too 🙂
I hope you enjoy,
Recipe: Creamy carrot & basil soup
Total time: 40mins
Notes: serves approx 6 people
- 3 tbsp olive oil or butter
- 1 medium white onion
- 2 medium sweet potatoes
- 700g carrots (8-10 carrots)
- 1 litre vegetable stock or water
- Salt & pepper
- 1 tbsp turmeric powder (or fresh, but harder to find)
- Fresh basil
- Roasted and spiced chickpeas
- Crushed pistachios
- Toasted pine nuts
- Black sesame seeds
- Pour oil in a large pot, set to medium heat.
- Add chopped onions and mix with oil, let them soften.
- Add finely chopped garlic.
- Add chopped potatoes and carrots, cook for 8-10 minutes.
- Pour vegetable stock or water, set heat to high until it boils. Then bring down to low-medium and cover. Cook until vegetables are soft (test with a knife), about 10-15 mins.
- Let the mix cool down then blend. Add salt, pepper, turmeric powder, lime juice and fresh basil, blend again. Optionally, you can add curry powder and coconut milk.
The trickiest part about making soups, for me, is getting the texture right. This is done by adding the “right” amount of liquid (stock, water). As a rule of thumb, pour enough stock so that all vegetables are submerged.
Typically, it’s better if you add less liquid than necessary, as you will always be able to adjust after blending. If you add excessive liquid, the soup might become a watery mix, instead of a silky velvety creamy soup.
If when you blend the soup it is too thick, heat up some water or milk (almond, coconut, or dairy) and add gradually to the soup, while still blending it. Try not to add cold liquid as the difference in temperature will create a sort of “shock” and you will lose in homogeneity.