Saturday 7 August 2010

NCR Carrot and Fennel Soup

Last night we watched the Clangers on DVD. It is an odd BBC children’s television show from the 1960s and 1970s with funny little pink knitted characters. My favourite character was the soup dragon, who is very helpful when the Clangers go in search of soup for dinner. Tonight I was the soup dragon in our house.

The soup I made came from the latest edition of the Vegetarian Times. All too often I browse through my VT magazine, pick the recipes I must make some day and then forget them too quickly. It is one reason I started blogging, to capture some of the recipes that pass fleetingly through my head.

I have to thank fellow bloggers, Jacqueline and Lisa, for inspiring me to make this carrot soup with fennel pesto. They hold the No Croutons Required (NCR) blog event that challenges other to make a vegetarian soup or salad each month. The theme for August is carrots. I use carrots in my cooking all the time but I teeter between loving and disliking carrots when they are all alone. I am also a little fennel-shy. But I know what is good for me and I love participating in NCR.

Today started off inauspiciously with us sleeping in and arriving late for Sylvia’s swimming lesson – I even managed to put her underwater before discovering I hadn’t taken one of her socks off. The day could only get better. And it did.

Sylvia had a lovely time in the pool after her lesson. She can now stand in the lowest end of the middle pool. We had a great falafel from Half Moon Café for lunch. Then I managed to hand wash some jumpers and bake a sour cream banana cake that had both been on the top of my to-do list for days. While things were going well I made some frugal freezer stock. I needed it for the soup. I even made some rhubarb and strawberry crumble for dessert.

It wasn’t smooth sailing all the way. I decided to use an apple, cranberry and lime juice instead of white wine because we don’t drink a lot of white wine in winter. The juice is delicious but it is a bit sweet for the soup. Fortunately the flavours of the pesto were strong enough to counter the sweetness. But next time I will use wine. I also didn’t have quite enough lemon rind and decided to add parsnips and sour cream.

At the end of the day, the soup went down well with a chunk of Turkish bread. The pesto took my soup from ordinary to amazingly complex. The fennel was just enough to make an impact but not dominate. Its liquorice flavours melded well with the other strong flavours. I would definitely make the soup again, if the inspiration came my way.

Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
This time last year: PPN Creamy Spinach Walnut Pasta
This time three years ago: Rumbledethumps: death to the red hag

Carrot soup with fennel pesto
adapted from Vegetarian Times September 2010
serves 4-6

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large leek, chopped
  • 4 shallots, peeled and chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 800g (about 8 medium large) carrots, scrubbed and chopped
  • 2 small parsnips, peeled and chopped
  • 750g vegetable stock
  • 1 cup white wine (I used apple cranberry lime juice and a splosh of whiskey)
  • 1-2 cups water
  • sour cream, to serve (optional)

Fennel Pesto:

  • ½ tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 tbsp pinenuts
  • 1 tbsp fennel fronds or fresh dill, finely chopped (I used dill)
  • 1 small garlic clove, crushed
  • ½ tsp lemon zest
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1-2 tbsp olive oil

Heat oil in a stockpot and gently fry leek and shallots for about 5 minutes (or if you are like me, fry them as they are prepared and then set about preparing carrots and parsnips). Add garlic and stir for about 1 minute. Add carrots, parsnips, stock, wine and 1 cup of water. Bring to the boil and simmer for about 45 minutes. Puree and add another cup of water if required. Serve with sour cream and fennel pesto.

To make fennel pesto: dry fry the fennel seeds for about 4 minutes. Grind in a mortar and pestle. Dry fry the pine nuts till lightly fried. Add pinenuts to mortar and pestle with dill, garlic and salt. Mush into a paste. Stir in 1 tbsp of olive oil and add more oil if required.

On the stereo:
Children of Lir: Loudest whisper


  1. I am so impressed with your incredibly productive day! It sounds as though your day was filled with loveliness, including this beautiful soup! I too am a bit fennel-shy, but I do love the idea of a fennel pesto... So creative! I adore Veg Times as well! :-)

  2. You're not the soup dragon, you're the kitchen dragon! Wowee! I've never been a huge fan of pesto but I love fennel so this might be one to try soon :) Maybe on a day when I've had more than a whopping 1.5hrs sleep, though...

  3. What a delicious looking soup. Like you, I started blogging partly to capture some of the many ideas whirling around in my head and to motivate me to make them!!!

  4. That sounds like a great day (so much achieved, how do you do it?) and a wonderful soup. You did make me laugh with the sock story. You will laugh when you open your email from me and read the pesto story too :)

  5. What a great idea! I would never have though to use fennel in this way!

  6. I really like the sound of the fennel pesto Johanna! It's a new one for me! :D

  7. Haha I love the imagine of Sylvia in the swimming pool with one sock on! :) I'm a bit fennel shy too. I think I've only tried it a couple of times and just roasted it but should give it another chance in something like this soup.

  8. Oh, i have so been there with the socks. And, I think fennel and carrot sound wonderful together.

  9. Really like the idea of the fennel/dill pesto!

  10. Thanks Astra - if only I had more productive days like that - right now I feel I should get some tidying up done because sylvia will wake soon and the whirlwind will be unleashed once more :-)

    Thanks Hannah - ouch 1.5 hours sleep - hope it was a wonderful party :-) I have wondered what this pesto would be like with a cheese sandwich but the recipe only makes a small amount that was gobbled up with the soup - it is much more pungent than basil pesto

    Thanks Cakelaw - I think you are doing well at cooking some of your visions - blogging is great for inspiration

    Thanks Jacqueline - not sure Cooper would enjoy this pesto so much - but would be interested to hear if Graham is ever let loose with it :-)

    thanks Lisa - I was attracted to the recipe because it took me well outside the flavour palate I am used to

    Thanks Lorraine - definitely worth a try

    thanks ashley - yes I would recommend trying fennel in this way - I only used fennel seeds and not fresh fennel - E has complained about fresh fennel in salads but loved this soup

    Thanks Maybelle's mum - I think that carrot and fennel is greater together in this soup than either by themselves

    Thanks Anh - the pesto is quite unusual but in a good way


  11. Glad to hear the fennel's not too overpowering here, as I'm a bit fennel-shy myself. The soup looks marvelous and I think this might just be my first fennel recipe that's a hit!

    Glad the day got better. . .but the image of Sylvia swimming with one sock is too cute, even if her sock got wet!

  12. Wow, I've never seen Romanescu broccoli before! It is amazing! it almost looks coral -like! :o

  13. One more of your recipes that I have to try... The pesto sounds gorgeous! It took me many, many years to like fennel, but now I am big fan of it!!


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