Carrot & coriander soup
I have a memory of a scene from an old version of the 4.50 From Paddington, in which Miss Marple details how to make a basic creamed soup. It may even be Margaret Rutherford in the 1961 film Murder She Said. I recognized the recipe when I first saw the film as the one that I've been using for over 45 years now.
Creamed soups rather fell out of fashion decades ago - quite possibly because they're so plain as soups go, and - horror! - they are thickened with flour. The one exception to this trend was the triumphant rise of carrot & coriander soup in the 1990s...probably because the word "creamed" didn't enter the title and, by then, supermarkets were selling "fresh" soups in pouches. And yet I promise you it follows my old creamed soup recipe to the letter.
By the way, if you fancy cream of celery soup instead (which I often do), simply swap out the carrots for a small-to-medium head of celery, omit the coriander, increase the flour by a good heaped teaspoon, and follow the method as given. Strain the resulting soup through a fine mesh sieve to get rid of any tough fibres. Cream of mushroom can be made in a similar way (with 350g of mushrooms), adding the extra flour and swapping out the coriander for a 1/2 teaspoon of dried oregano and a small grating of nutmeg. Use 450mls of water and 450mls of milk. No need to strain.
If you are wondering where the "cream" in all these soups is, it's in the whole milk. Manufacturers circumvent this thorny question by using semi-skimmed milk, then they add back the missing cream at the end. If you want proof of this, just consult the ingredients list on any can or pouch.
You'll also need a blender (unless you fancy mashing the vegetables by hand and forcing the soup through sieves, much like my grandmother - and Miss Marple, for that matter - used to do).
Makes a little over a litre, sometimes a little more. Serves 3 - 4; 5 if it's being served as a soup course in an elaborate meal.
450g carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
1 onion, roughly chopped
1 clove of garlic, roughly chopped
a splash of oil
3 barely rounded teaspoons ground coriander
2 barely rounded teaspoons flour
a tiny shake of cayenne or chilli powder (optional, but authentic)
a shake of ground white pepper
1 vegetable stock cube
a very small handful of coriander leaves (optional)
a tiny squeeze of lemon juice
Heat the oil and butter together in a saucepan, then add the chopped onion, carrots, and garlic. Stir to coat them in the hot fat.
Turn down the heat to the lowest setting, smother the vegetables closely with a layer of kitchen foil (or simply pop on a tight-fitting lid), and leave them to sweat in their own juices for 20 minutes.
Remove the foil or the lid, and stir in the flour and the spices. Let them cook for a minute or two, stirring all the while and scraping the flour from the bottom of the pan.
Use the stock cube to make up the stock with the boiling water, add it to the pan, then whack up the heat and keeping stirring as you bring the soup to a boil. Pop on a lid and lower the heat again, and leave it to simmer for another 25 minutes. The delightful perfume of the coriander will fill your kitchen.
Allow the soup to cool a little before you blend it. It's at this point you add the milk and the coriander leaves (if using). Once blended, add the tiniest squeeze of lemon, and give it another whizz.
Time to assess it!
Too thick? Thin it with a little water, stock, or even milk (if it's not already too rich).
Too thin? It's possible if you're making Cream of Celery or Mushroom. Add a drizzle of slaked cornflour (a teaspoon of cornflour mixed with a teaspoon or two of water) when you reheat it. Make a note to increase the flour next time.
Now taste it and adjust the seasonings. It may need a pinch or two of salt or some extra pepper.
Let it cool completely before storing it in the fridge. To serve, reheat it gently, stirring all the while - do not let it boil (exactly like the instructions on tinned soups).
While you can freeze it, freezing can and often will alter the texture (though not the flavour). It may look truly awful when you defrost it. Fear not! Take a vigorous whisk to it when you reheat it; it generally comes back together.
In response to its appearance on Twitter, Al posted his wife's recipe, which frankly sounds delicious!
Note that it makes approximately twice the amount of the recipe above:
Any questions? You can use the comments form at the bottom of the page.
Did you know?
You'll find recipes at the back of all the books in the Send for Octavius Guy series: