There is a profusion of soup recipes on this site, isn't there? Annalena loves making soup, and as she and the Guyman generally sit down to a supper built around soup, once a week, that may not be surprising. Lest you think the world of soup is inexhaustable, be advised that it is, but it isn't. One can make a soup out of just about anything. Think of that wonderful didactic story you learned as a child, "stone soup," and if you haven't, have someone tell it to you right now.
The fact that you CAN make a soup, however, does not mean that it will be a GOOD soup. Annalena has seen some soup recipes that , to her taste, border on the unforgiveable, and others that should be destroyed immediately. In the former camp, something like parsnip apple soup simply makes the many hairs on her back stand up. In the latter camp, Annalena once saw a recipe for raspberry/beet/fennel soup. OFF WITH ITS HEAD.
Then there are soups which sound good on paper, but need some care in their execution. This soup falls into that category. On paper, the combination of curry and carrot sounds, at least to Annalena, quite wonderful. If you imagine the aroma, and even the taste, of curry, against the deep sweetness of carrots, you will probably see the combination.
It can turn into one of the nastiest taste combinations imaginable. Curry is easy to work with if (i) you understand it and (ii) you use the correct curry, because using a word like "curry" is like using the word "bread." Do not assume that what you think is curry, is ALL curry. What Annalena learned, is that one has things like "sweet curry," "hot curry" and the one that is the subject of this soup recipe "Maharajah curry." Given that the recipe called specifically for this type of curry (which Annalena knew of, from Penzey's spices, but assumed was their proprietary blend), she went searching and learned.... this is one of those things where everyone who uses "Maharajah" curry seems to know what it is, but no one says WHAT it is. That makes sense, doesn't it? Annalena was looking to find out what is in Maharajah curry that distinguishes it from, e.g, "sweet" curry, or "Hot" curry or just plain "curry." She will tell you what she learned from making the soup, however, as we go along. Would the soup be as good with another curry? A very fair question to which Annalena does not have the answer. It may be worth trying.
Here is what you will need: 1.5 cups, each, of chopped onions and celery. Also, 2 pounds of carrots, cleaned and chopped roughly (use the big, monstrous soup carrots here. The ones that are too big to eat, and would give Bugs Bunny pause). Also, six cups of liquid, be it chicken stock, water, vegetable stock, or combinations thereof (Annalena used her standard of a quart of chicken stock and 2 cups of water). You will also need two tablespoons of vegetable oil (should you choose to be totally traditional, use ghee), and three teaspoons of Maharajah curry, divided into a 2 teaspoon, and a one teaspoon measure . (This division is why Annalena does not prescribe a tablespoon).
Let us now get to work. Put the oil in a big soup pot, and heat it at medium heat. Then, add your onions, the celery, a teaspoon of salt and the two teaspoons of curry powder.
Key to unleashing curry powder's flavor, is the heating step. As Annalena has noted before, "frying" spices is very key to both Indian, and Mexican cooking. Stir the vegetables and spices together until the powder begins to stick, and the onions go translucent. It will not take long.
The first lesson Annalena learned from this experience, was that the Maharajah curry seemed to have a more sophisticated, more complex, "finer" aroma than other curries, which usually strike her as being a bit acrid. You know how, when you go into an Indian restaurant, you are often struck by what Annalena calls "Indian food smell," the aroma that gets into your clothes and does not dissipate? That is the smell of burned tumeric, the yellow stuff in curry. It is cheap, and that is why so much of it is used, and when it burns, it lingers. While it was clear that there was tumeric in this curry, that effect was not in evidence here.
Ok, now add your carrots, and stir them to coat them with oil, and some of the curry. It seems to make the soup tastier if you do this, seemingly extra step. Now add your liquids, bring the material to a boil, and then lower the heat and simmer, for about 20-30 minutes.
With large carrots, the vegetables will soften, but they will maintain their shape. And you may very well feel yourself on the horns of a dilemma here, as Annalena did. At the end of the cooking, the soup looked so good, Annalena wished to leave it just as it was, as a chunky vegetable soup. But carrot soup is ALWAYS pureed, and she was very interested in how the color would evolve. So, Annalena added the other teaspoon of curry (it is interesting to have the play of cooked and raw spices in a dish), let the thing cool, and then pureed it to smoothness.
The soup has a rich velvety texture to it, and you might be able to fool someone into thinking there is dairy product in it, but of course, there is not.
Should you use vegetable stock, or water, you will have a vegan soup, and a completely vegan meal, if you serve it with the whole wheat flatbreads which Annalena will be presenting to you later this week.
You may wish to adorn this soup any way you like. In her youth, Annalena would add roasted peanuts to carrot soup. That sounds fine, but seems to defeat the Indian idea here. You may want to make it more protein nutritious with chickpeas, or a dollop of hummus or something along those ends, and get the same effect. Sweeter elements will work, like raisins, if you like sweeter soups (Annalena does not).
In any event, you will get close to two quarts of soup from this recipe.
And... let's go through the ingredients: chicken stock or water, carrots, onions, celery, a tablespoon of curry powder. Not too expensive, huh? Does it seem hard to make? We thought not.
Track down some curry, Maharajah or other type, and make this soup. As we make the transition from winter to spring, it is a good tonic for what ails you.