“Spend the afternoon. You can’t take it with you.”

-Annie Dillard

I’ll be honest with you: not many of the recipes I make and post on this blog go through an experimental “let’s try this and see how it tastes” test run. And this isn’t to say that everything I touch automatically turns to gold. Unfortunately, that just doesn’t happen, especially when I’m fiddling with the ingredients. The reality is that sometimes my cheesecake ends up cracking (or, even if it doesn’t crack, things end up falling on it; life happens! =p), or I char the bread while pureeing the soup; at other moments, I might accidentally open the wrong side of the pepper container and dump a teaspoon + into what would have otherwise been a superb omelet. Or mistake cayenne pepper for curry powder in my poorly lit kitchen. Another valuable lesson I’ve learned is that too much baking soda will lead to disgustingly bitter pancakes. Recently added to my list of cooking no-nos was the knowledge that, once potatoes are peeled, they must be put into a bowl of cold, salted water. Otherwise, they turn black from oxidation…just like apples. Who’d have thunk it? The good news, however, is that knowledge is power. You make one of these mistakes, you’re unlikely to make it again. Kitchen foibles are simply in a league of their own; you learn fast or you sacrifice hours of labor..and sometimes limbs or hair.

That’s why this recipe is particularly special. I made it not once, but twice before I felt it was ready to be revealed. The first time around it was good, but not amazing. And I couldn’t help but think that things just didn’t have to be that way. There was no reason for a Curried Carrot Ginger Soup to be bland. Such a thing doesn’t even make sense!

There were a few complications, however:

1) I recently rediscovered a love for my work. In an attempt both to move towards the writing process and to make it as painless as possible, I’m rereading Sologub and typing up all the notes I’ve been taking for what essentially amounts to the past year (!). It’s been fun and it’s definitely helped me articulate some thoughts that have been on my mind. It’s also nice to know that if I just sit with a book in Russian and tune the rest of the world out, the pages don’t turn all that slowly.

2) Before heading back to the world of carrots and ginger for round 2, I really wanted to try Smitten Kitchen’s Baked Potato Soup. Please let me say that this little interlude was more than worth it…and ultimately helped me to perfect the recipe.

3) Besides the fact that I’ve been on a potato kick lately, I’ve also been indulging in homemade pizza making. More on that in the next post!

But once I got all of this out of my system and felt that I had earned yet another “cooking day” (yes, we’ve again returned to the wonderful world of Pavlovian rewards for work accomplished! Downton Abbey is helping things move along quite nicely!) I was ready for another go. I was also slightly enthralled with the idea of taking a basic recipe, sprucing it up and making it my very own. And still in the mood to make things vegan. What can I say? I get an idea in my head and I can’t let it go. At least, not until I’ve exhausted it sufficiently. 🙂 Sometimes that never happens (considering coconut milk is a part of this manner of cooking, this could be one of those times…shhhhhh! I think people are worried I’m switching over to the dark side…).

The good news is that the trial and error method served me well; the second batch of this soup was–and continues to be–a crowd pleaser. So, my advice to those of you who are looking either to experiment with vegan home-cooking or to end up with consistently yummy soup, it’s really quite simple: use broth, not water; more vegetables and spices are a must. In short, add that extra tablespoon of curry powder and peel and chop those remaining carrots and ginger! Most importantly, although I recognize that most things are a matter of taste, let’s just say that I can’t help but feel that garlic is essential to a soup’s success. If you don’t want to saute the garlic with the onions or leeks (again, your choice), boil or roast it, crushing it into a paste (as this was an essential part of SK’s Baked Potato Soup, I had already boiled my garlic and capitalized on this amazingly fortuitous coincidence) and stir it in after you add the broth. With such a method, you really can’t go wrong.

And don’t forget to top your soup with something that will add a little extra flavor. When it comes to soups like this, I go the simple route with chives. You could add some extra grated ginger or sprinkle it with a dash of curry powder. In either case, you won’t be disappointed. The sweetness of the carrots mixed with the soft spiciness of the ginger and the creamy, nutty undertones of the coconut milk may even inspire you to find a soft spot for veganism, flexitarianism or whatever “ism” might currently be lighting your fire.

Curried Carrot Ginger Soup

Inspired by and heavily adapted from the Sweet Dreams Soup Recipe from the Blue Moon Cookbook

Yields at least 6 flavorful bowls

3-4 small potatoes, peeled and chopped

6 carrots, peeled and chopped

2 Tbsp. canola oil

1 yellow onion, chopped into small pieces

1 3-inch piece ginger, peeled and chopped/grated

1 cube vegetable bouillon (vegan-friendly)

4-5 cloves boiled or roasted garlic, crushed into a paste

1 can coconut milk

1/2 tsp. nutmeg

1 Tbsp. curry powder + more (1/2 tsp) to taste

1/4 teaspoon kosher and/or sea salt (the bouillon I used had salt in them, so I didn’t add any extra)

1/2 teaspoon pepper

2-4 tsp. chopped chives for garnish

-Boil the potatoes in 3-4 cups of water until tender, about 20 minutes.

-When the water comes to a boil, add the bouillon and stir to help it dissolve.

-Once the potatoes are tender. turn the burner off and let them sit in the pot.

-In the meantime, pour the oil into a soup pot on medium heat.

-Add the onion, half the carrots, the ginger, nutmeg, curry powder, salt (if using additional salt), and pepper.

-Sauté for 6-8 minutes, stirring with a wooden spoon.

-Add the remaining carrots, the cooked potato, and the broth.

-Add 1 cup water, and stir.

-At this stage, you can also add the crushed garlic, which will resemble a paste.

-Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, covered, until the carrots are tender, about 25-30 minutes.

-In a blender or a bowl, blend or mash 3 ladlefuls of the soup.

-Return the blended soup to the pot with the remaining soup (if you prefer a pureed soup, puree it all; if you, like most Americans, like “stuff” in your soup, puree less. This is all a matter of taste…and, as an article a friend posted recently pointed out, probably also of nationality).

-Then, stir in the coconut milk (make sure to shake the can of coconut milk before opening it; also, stir it before adding it to the soup so as to break it up).

-Add more curry powder, salt and/or pepper to taste.

-Ladle into bowls and garnish with the chopped chives.

-Enjoy!

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