With my Christmas shopping already complete and the season in full swing, I thought I’d take a break from Christmas recipes to share something more mainstream. Soups are so wonderfully comforting this time of year. For autumn, I shared my Kale and White Bean Autumn Soup but I thought I should begin to share more of these cold weather favourites. Carrots are always plentiful in markets and sometimes I have a number of them sitting in the refrigerator just waiting to be incorporated into a delicious recipe. A soup creation was just the thing!
Carrots and fennel pair amazing well. In this soup, the liquorice flavour of the fennel blends in with the smooth more uniform taste of the carrots and creates a lovely deep sweet yet even flavour that is somehow both comforting and regenerating. Pistachios are a lovely addition and with a garnish of yogurt (for non-vegans) and a fennel sprig, it makes a lovely decorative soup that’s perfect for anything from a family meal to a large dinner party.
Unfortunately I neglected to get a photo of the fennel bulbs (what was I thinking??!! You can see it here) but nevertheless I found out that it has an absolutley fascinating history. There are reports of fennel being eaten 2000 years ago and Roman bakers used its leaves pressed under their bread to add extra flavour. It was a symbol of courage in ancient Roman, and the Greek battle of Marathon in 490 B.C. was fought on a field of fennel (marthron). The runner, Pheidippides, who ran to Athens to warn of the invasion was presented with a sprig of fennel which you can see in the painting by Luc Olivier Merson, and also read of fennel in Robert Brownings poem Pheiddipes:
So, when Persia was dust, all cried, “To Acropolis!
Run, Pheidippides, one race more! the meed is thy due!
Athens is saved, thank Pan, go shout!” He flung down his shield
Ran like fire once more: and the space ‘twixt the fennel-field
And Athens was stubble again, a field which a fire runs through,
Till in he broke: “Rejoice, we conquer!” Like wine through clay,
Joy in his blood bursting his heart, – the bliss!
Such an amazing history for a somewhat unfamiliar vegetable!
So sit down and sip this bowl of comfort. You’ll be very glad you did!
Carrot Fennel Soup with Pistachios
A warming and soothing soup to chase away the winter chills!
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 4 large shallots, diced (or 8 small)
- 2 bulbs fennel, halved and thinly sliced
- 4 ½ cups vegetable stock
- 2 pounds carrots, cut into ½" rounds
- ½ teaspoon anise seeds
- 1 teaspoon sea or Himalayan salt
- 1 14 oz can coconut milk
- ground pepper to taste
- ⅓ cup pistachios, chopped
- ⅓ cup plain yogurt (optional)
Heat olive oil in a medium-large pot over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook until soft, about 5 minutes.
Add the sliced fennel and sauté for another 5 minutes.
Add vegetable stock, carrots, anise seeds and salt to the pot and bring to a slow boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, until carrots are cooked and soft, approximately 30 minutes.
Remove soup from the pot and purée in a blender. You might have to do this in a couple of batches.
Return soup to pot and add the can of coconut milk, stirring well to incorporate. Add the pepper to taste. Garnish with the chopped pistachios, yogurt and fronds of fennel.
If you want to prepare this soup in advance, you can work up to and including step 4 and then refrigerate. The next day, reheat the soup slowly, then begin at step 5 to complete. I do prefer to make it all at once though for maximum freshness!
Food for Thought: “The best portion of a good man’s life: his little, nameless unremembered acts of kindness and love.” ~ William Wordsworth