South African Carrot Soup

A South African Specialty

Following two wonderful weeks of Indian Summer, the first days of Fall have reached Petaluma, California. Today I made one of my favorite soup recipes: South African Carrot Soup.

ElephantI joined family and friends on a quest to build a sister-school project in South Africa when my children were in middle school and high school. During many visits, I discovered their lovely cuisine as I shared meals with the equally lovely people I met. South Africa is known as the rainbow nation because of the amazing diversity of its people. This beautiful diversity is reflected in their music, art, culture and food. I experienced the fusion of African, European and Asian cooking come together in flavorful and healthy meals during a stay at the Ghost Mountain Inn. The inn is family owned and run, and is near several nature preserves — I fell in love with the nearby Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park’s elephant herd.

The following recipe is a favorite for many reasons: It is simple, healthy, yummy, and reminds me of my heart’s connection to a special place on the planet. If you like butternut squash soup, this is a great recipe for you, and the carrots are much easier to peel and dice!

2 tablespoons olive oil
12 medium, or 7/8 large, carrots peeled and roughly diced
1 small yellow onion, diced
4 cups vegetable or chicken broth (plus 1/4 to 1/2 cup if needed later)
3 to 4 spoonfuls of unsalted peanut butter (almond and cashew butter also work)
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon yellow curry (or more if you like it spicy)
1/2 teaspoon orange zest (just the orange part of the peel, not the white part)
pinch of salt
fresh ground pepper to tasteCarrot Soup Ingredients

Saute diced onion and carrots in olive oil with a pinch or two of salt for 4 to 5 minutes, or until they just begin to get golden (this brings out the sugars). Add broth and bring to a simmer for 7 to 10 minutes, until just cooked — don’t overcook the carrots. Let the soup cool down so that you can safely puree it in a blender or food processor. Return the puree to the soup pot, and add a little more broth if it is too thick for your liking. Bring to a simmer then add peanut butter (or other nut butter), yellow curry, orange zest and pepper to taste and simmer 5 to 10 minutes.

Transitioning to Fall: Vegetable Soup

The key to great soup of any kind is really good stock. You can use a vegetable or chicken stock from the grocery store to make this soup, but if you are inclined and have the time to simmer your own, it will make all of the difference. I like to use chicken stock because the flavor is richer and balances the vegetable flavors.

Chicken Stock Ingredients

2 medium or one large yellow onion
1 red onion
2 heads of garlic
3 stalks celery
3 large carrots
2 roast chicken carcasses

Cut onions into quarters, leaving the skin on; Cut garlic heads in half; wash and coarsely chop carrots and celery into large pieces. Place vegetables into large stockpot, place two roasted chicken carcasses on top, and add water until it covers the ingredients. Bring to full boil, lower to simmer with lid on for 1 ½ hours. Let cool a little, then strain stock into another stock/soup pot, bring to boil, then lower to a simmer to reduce the stock liquid about 1 inch. Add salt to taste (i.e. 1 to 1 ½ tablespoons).

Fall Vegetable Soup

Fall Vegetable Soup

Vegetable Soup Ingredients

12 to 16 cups chicken stock depending on how much soup you want to make. I make extra and freeze it for a busy winter week. (See above recipe or use your favorite store bought)

3 carrots – medium to large
3 medium red potatoes
3 turnips (peel outer skin if winter turnips – it’s bitter)
1 medium star squash
1 medium to large zucchini
1 to 2 small crookneck yellow squash
Bunch of washed spinach with stems removed
1 to 2 teaspoons (to taste) Dried Oregano
1 to 2 teaspoons (to taste) Dried Basil
Salt and pepper to taste

Fall Vegetable Soup

Fall Vegetable Soup

Wash and dice carrots, turnips and potatoes in large bite sized chunks and set aside in a bowl. Wash and dice the rest of the vegetables and set aside. In soup pot, bring stock to low boil and lower to simmer. Carefully add carrots, turnips and potatoes with large spoon (so you don’t get splashed with hot stock) and raise heat to bring back to a simmer, then lower to hold at a simmer for 7 to 8 minutes. Add the rest of the veggies and the dried herbs and simmer 5 more minutes. Test/taste the vegetables which should be al dente, like pasta – not too soft. Serve with grated parmesan cheese and good local bread.  I made one of my favorite fall/winter recipes for cornbread from the Joy of Cookings recipe for Buttermilk Cornbread. An easy addition to this soup is to add cooked pasta (don’t cook the pasta in the soup), which makes it a hearty main dish.