In this soup, the sweetness of carrots and the nuttiness of sunchokes (girasoles, Jerusalem artichokes) predominate, accented by cardamom, nutmeg, fresh ginger, and the bright taste of a pink lady organic apple. Finished with a drizzle of deep green pumpkin oil and toasted pumpkin seeds, it provides a feast for the eyes as well as the soul. This is a soup for all: vegetarian, vegan, low fat, whichever moniker you prefer. For those of us with no particular persuasion, it was plain delicious, a wonderful way to begin a festive dinner, or the main star of a light evening meal.
2 T olive oil
1 T organic butter, or ghee
2 C chopped onion
2 large stalks celery, chopped
2 T finely chopped ginger root
2 tsp crushed cardamom
1/2 tsp grated nutmeg
2 tsp sea salt
4 C chopped organic carrots
2 C chopped sunchokes (see note below)
1 juicy, flavorful apple, cored and chopped
6 C water
1 C coconut milk
freshly ground pepper to taste
pumpkin seed oil
toasted pumpkin seeds
In a heavy soup kettle (I used a 4-quart one), heat olive oil and butter over medium heat. Add the onion, celery, ginger root, cardamom and nutmeg, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. After the celery and onion are well softened, add the carrots, sunchokes and salt. Turn heat to medium low and pan roast all the vegetables, stirring frequently. The idea is to intensify the flavor of the vegetables, not to brown them. This process can go on for as long as 30 minutes while you are preparing other parts of your meal.
When the vegetables are glistening and softened, add water and the apple. Bring to a simmer and keep partially covered over medium low heat until carrots are soft, about 30 minutes, stirring frequently. Using a stick blender (or regular blender if you don’t have a stick blender), puree the soup, leaving small bits for texture. Add coconut milk and adjust seasonings. Allow to sit, covered, until serving time. An even richer flavor occurs if the soup stands for a while. I usually make it in the morning for the evening meal.
Note: Sunchokes are challenging little beasties to clean! I hate to waste the little knobby parts, even though some chefs recommend just slicing those off and discarding them. I usually scrub the chokes with a stiff brush under running water or better yet, in a bowl of water to prevent spraying the entire kitchen with muddy water! I always think of that option AFTER I have decorated the kitchen walls! Any truly dirty indentations can be removed with a small sharp knife and then I peel any parts that are still dirty looking. This way I manage to use most of the sunchoke. The flavor and texture, not to mention the health benefits, of this vegetable are well worth the effort. In the store they are a bit pricey, but when planted in your yard they are prolific, in fact, invasive and free!
Toasted pumpkin seed oil from Styria, Austria is becoming more available in this country and can be found in most high end groceries. Deep green in color, rich tasting, a tiny bit goes a long way. The jar keeps in the refrigerator for ever!