For me, there’s Irish food and then there’s Irish food. You know the usuals: Irish stew, fish n’ chips, corned beef and cabbage (actually more Irish-American than Irish), maybe Shepard’s Pie. There are plenty more, lesser known on this side of the pond, such as boxty and colcannon. I’m no expert but they are the dishes that I’ve always associated with that far away green isle, whether because they’re my favorite selections from the menu of the local Irish pub, or because my 16-year-old self consumed them repeatedly on my first trip over in 1986.
Now, however, times have changed and thankfully it’s my 2011 trip that lives in my Irish memories. Irish food for me is now the tart and refreshing Pomegranate Blueberry Smoothie I had that first morning in Blarney. It’s also Scrambled Eggs with Smoked Salmon, which I enjoyed almost every morning of that trip. And it’s fresh fish of all types: fried, roasted, poached, served with a cream sauce or maybe a slice of chorizo.
What I’ve been chasing, though, is a carrot soup that I had with the above meal of fish (the variety is lost to me now) with chorizo.
I’ve tried various incarnations of boiling carrots and whizzing them up with ingredients such as orange juice, apples, chickpeas, even white beans. Those versions were certainly edible but they just didn’t evoke that one specific food memory. The place probably had something to do with. Either that or the kir royale.
This is Kinsale, the unabashed foodie capital of Ireland. I would concur as well as add that most meals we had lived up to this colorful town’s standards.
Sunday, I decided to stop experimenting and google “carrot coriander soup”. There was an easy version on jamieoliver.com, so I went with it. Et voilà. This one got me closer than any of the versions I had previously attempted. I added ginger and crushed red, because I seem unable to refrain from so doing lately. The nice thing about this soup is that it’s lighter and fits in perfectly with a less hearty, spring-like style of eating that we lean toward this time of year.
I served it as a first course with Catherine Fulvio’s Beef Fillet with Jameson Cream Sauce, which she demo-ed on the Today Show last year. It was delicious but, trust me, you do not want to see that picture. If you’re tempted by it, I’d recommend adding a teaspoon of maple syrup to the sauce. But that’s just me.
Carrot Coriander Soup
Serves 4, adapted from jamieoliver.com
- 1 lb. carrots, peeled and sliced into 1/2″ coins
- 1 onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- a 1″ piece of ginger, minced
- 1 tsp. ground coriander
- 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper
- 1 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. pepper
- 2 cups vegetable stock
- 1 cup water
- 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
- 2 Tbsp. olive oil
- sour cream and grated parmesan (optional garnish)
Preheat the olive oil in a large dutch oven or soup pot over medium heat. Add the carrots, onion and garlic and sauté for about 5 minutes, or until onions are translucent. Turn down the flame if they seem to be browning. Salting add this point can help reduce browning.
Add the coriander, crushed red and salt and pepper. Stir and cook for about a minute.
Add the vegetable stock and water and bring to a light boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered for a thicker stew, for 20 minutes or until the carrots are tender. For a thinner soup, simmer covered.
Add the chopped cilantro and stir. Allow to simmer for another couple of minutes
Finally, use an immersion blender and blend until only somewhat smooth. It’s very satisfying to have some whole carrots as well in this one! Alternatively, you can transfer half the soup to a blender (don’t forget to remove the small part of the lid and cover with a kitchen towel before blending to avoid a carrot explosion!) and pulse a couple of times. Add back to the soup pot and stir. Taste to adjust seasonings.
Serve with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkling of parmesan.
And get thee to Ireland, tout de suite!