22 April 2012

A farewell and a soup recipe

I've got a whole list of recipes to post, but frankly, I haven't been much in the mood.

We lost somebody—somebody that I haven't written about much, if at all, but who had wormed his way into every part of my life.

RIP Magnus

This is Magnus. We adopted him, along with his sister Greta, just over six years ago. He was a giant of a cat: 17 pounds of solid muscle, built like a mini mountain lion. After surviving 3 surgeries for an aggressive but benign tumor in his leg, he got hit with a battle he couldn't beat: lung cancer. Thankfully, it was fast—he started having trouble breathing (we thought it was his normal springtime allergies) on a Friday, and we said goodbye on the following Tuesday.

As a cat who couldn't get enough playtime and acted like a kitten every single day until that Friday, I can only assume that had he a choice, he would have chosen ten great years without the frustration of aging. Not that it makes it any easier for those of us who are left.


Magnus took after his mama when it came to food, too. While I was a little bit fanatical about feeding him well (yes, I am one of those pet parents), his tastes were quite broad. Nothing made him happier than a piece of pineapple. He once crept up behind Mike and stole a piece of smoked gouda—he speared it on one claw and ran away on three legs before devouring it. He would come running when he heard me open a yoghurt container, knowing that he got to lick the plastic seal before I threw it away. In perhaps my personal favorite example of his devilry, he once caused a diversion in the kitchen—jumping onto a counter and throwing a bag of bread on the ground—so that he could steal a plate of leftover barbecue when Mike ran into the kitchen.

He may have been bad, but he was also the best.


That being said, I have been cooking. I have another iteration of my walnut cake, I have pickled kale and daikon (separately, not together), I have lemon pie and caramelized! white! chocolate! pudding! But today, I have something simple, comforting, and warm. Something to eat when spring vegetables are arriving but evenings are still cool; something to serve in a big mug and to eat while wrapped up in a wool blanket. I'm talking about spiced carrot soup.

ready for blending

Carrot soup is always good, and it's a fine way to make use of sad, starchy winter carrots. However, this soup really shines with the sweetest, small spring carrots you can find. With good, sweet carrots, you don't even need to use stock in this soup; I just used water and added a crushed garlic clove and bay leaf to the vegetables while they were cooking.

spiced carrot soup

Spiced Carrot Soup
Adapted from a Bon Appétit recipe for "Moroccan Carrot Soup" (which bears no resemblance to anything I ever ate in Morocco, for the record).

2 teaspoons cumin seeds
2 tablespoons butter or olive oil
½ large yellow onion, chopped
1 pound (usually one bunch) small-medium sweet spring carrots
1 clove garlic, peeled and lightly crushed (if using water)
1 bay leaf (if using water)
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
pinch smoked paprika (optional)
2½ cups water or mild vegetable broth
1 tablespoon honey
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice, plus more if needed
salt to taste
a few dollops plain yoghurt, preferably whole-milk

Set a dry heavy skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add the cumin seeds and stir/shake until fragrant and deep brown, 2-3 minutes. Transfer to a mortar and crush into a coarse powder; set aside.

Heat the butter or oil in a medium pot. Add the onions and cook until translucent and softened but not browned, 5-7 minutes. Meanwhile, wash the carrots and chop them into a rough dice (there's no need to peel them if they are sweet young carrots; if they are older or woody, you may wish to do so). Add the carrots, garlic & bay leaf (if using), allspice, paprika, and about ½ teaspoon of the cumin and stir to combine.

Add the water or stock and bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer and mostly cover. Simmer until the carrots are very tender, about 20 minutes.

Purée in batches in a blender (letting a cool a bit for your safety), or—the much easier option, in my opinion—take the pot off the heat and use an immersion blender to purée until the mixture is smooth. Stir in the honey, lemon juice, and some salt; taste and adjust seasoning as desired. With sweet carrots you may prefer a bit more lemon juice.

Return the soup to a bare simmer. Serve in bowls or mugs with a dollop of yoghurt and a generous sprinkle of spiced cumin, preferably with some warm crusty bread alongside.

Serves 4 (maybe 5?) as a side, 3 as a main dish

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