These Goosebumps Tell No Lies…Winter is Here!

OK Winter you win. I can deny it no longer. You are here. I tried to ignore your frosty mornings and gale force winds knocking my watering can over on the balcony at three in the morning. I even tried to ignore your bone-drenching rain showers and your rudeness at turning off the Sun at 4pm every afternoon. But what really made me admit defeat was when my heating and hot water boiler broke down 2 days ago. There you were, standing there and waving your wintry arms around shouting, “Look at me, look at me! You can’t escape me now! I’m the one freezing off your fingers and toes and any other bits you may have on you and there’s nothing you can do about it!” And whilst I was there waiting for the boiler person to come and warm up my baubels, I succumbed to the inevitable and allowed winter into my life and do you know what? It actually wasn’t that bad. Once I had conceded to the elements, (and my water was hot again), things started to look a bit more rosy.

I’ve never been a Winter person. I’ve always craved the hot sun and long evenings and when the winter draws in, I sit and wonder what life would have been like if my Dad had decided to take that job in New Zealand and emigrate the family there when I was 2. Well know I would have a spanking tan right now and a brilliant Kiwi accent but, knowing me, I would probably be sitting there, craving long wintry nights, snow at Christmas and longing for highly questionable knitted sweaters to keep me warn when the boiler breaks down. Maybe I should just stop complaining and be thankful for what I have.

I was a little preoccupied last week to post a blog as it was mine and my lovely lady’s 8th (really, 8th? Blimey!) wedding anniversary and we decided to celebrate in style. We had a bottle of bubbly on the beach for breakfast, played games on Brighton Pier and to top it all off, we came home and did some winter gardening. Oh I know what you’re all thinking; “Slow down before you hurt yourselves!” Well don’t worry, we’re not always so reckless; we do boring things too.

Joking aside, getting the garden ready for winter was really quite fun. My wife and I live on the top floor in an apartment block so even though we’re not blessed with a garden, we do have a pretty impressive balcony so this year, we decided to create a rooftop garden using old boxes, planters, giant flowerpots and hundreds of litres of soil and grow our own veg. To say we didn’t have a clue to begin with is an understatement. I was so clueless I could kill a weed just by glancing at it and so we decided to go on a course run by a fantastic Brighton & Hove outfit called Harvest. They showed us how to grow what we wanted and how and when to plant it. This year we have had some amazing produce; incredible tomatoes, a delicious variety of cucumber that looks like a small tennis ball called ‘Crystal Lemon’ and my favourite thing of all; sweet, green, freshly podded peas to name but a few things we grew. So, whilst we were out there winterising our garden, we dug up our remaining carrots and I thought what better way to welcome in the winter than to make a deliciously hearty carrot soup. You might be thinking, “What’s he giving us a soup recipe for? Soups are boring. Anyone can make soup.” Well yes, maybe anyone can make soup, but not everyone can make a great soup. Poorly planned soups can be watery, tasteless and overcooked and can, quite frankly, put you off soups for life. A great winter soup should be something that is packed full of deep, robust flavour and is thick, creamy and satisfying. The recipe I’m about to give you is Winter Carrot & Rosemary Soup with a Garlic & Parsley Drizzle and is fabulous. A drizzle is a tangy and zesty concoction which you literally drizzle onto the soup just before serving. I’m a big fan of a drizzle in soups; balanced correctly, they can add a dimension of sharpness and zing whilst complimenting the richness and depth of the soup itself.

Our foundations for this soup lie in the onions, celery, parsley and garlic, with our middle flavours coming from the rosemary and bayleaf. It’s important to balance these correctly and not overpower the freshness of the carrots and allowing the stock to bring everything together. The drizzle at the end just lifts the soup and intensifies the flavours. Oh by the way I forgot to mention, this soup is dead easy to make! It would be useful of you had a food processor handy as this will save a lot of time but if you don’t, you’ll have to chop it by hand. However as this is a blended soup, you will definitely need a blender or a hand blender:

Winter Carrot & Rosemary Soup with a Garlic & Parsley Drizzle

You will need:

Food processor (optional). If you don’t have one, you can chop everything by hand

Blender or hand blender (essential)

Preparation: 10 mins Cooking time: 20 mins

Ingredients:

For the soup:

2-3 tbsp olive or sunflower oil

2 medium onions (peeled & quartered)

3 cloves garlic (peeled & sliced)

2 sticks celery (roughly chopped)

1 big handful fresh parsley (roughly chopped)

1 bayleaf (fresh if possible)

2 big sprigs fresh rosemary (de-stalked & roughly chopped)

600g carrots (chopped into approx. 2cm chunks) If the carrots are organic, don’t peel them just give them a wash. If they’re not, peel before chopping.

1 litre hot stock (I prefer Marigold Swiss Vegetable powdered Bouillon. Make sure you buy the vegan version (NOT the one in the green tub.)

Salt & pepper to taste

For the drizzle:

5 cloves garlic (peeled and finely chopped)

2 handfuls fresh parsley (finely chopped)

6tbsp extra virgin olive oil

4tbsp white wine vinegar

3tsp lemon juice

Dash agave nectar or ½ tsp brown sugar

Salt & pepper

Method:

In a big saucepan, pour in the oil and place on a medium heat.

Place the onions the food processor and pulse until finely chopped. (Don’t over pulse the onions or they will become mushy and watery.) Add the onions to the saucepan and stir well, cooking for approx 2 mins or until they become soft and translucent. If they start to stick or brown, add a little more oil.

Add the chopped parsley and stir well. Cook for approx. 1 – 2 mins stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, place the celery into the food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Add to the onions and parsley and stir well, adding a little salt. Cook for approx 2 mins stirring often or until the celery has softened.

Next, add the garlic and cook for approx 1 – 2 mins, stirring often. Make sure the garlic doesn’t burn, as this will give the soup a bitter flavour.

Now add the carrots and mix well, covering them in the onion mixture. Add some freshly ground black pepper and cook for approx 2 – 3 mins stirring occasionally so they don’t stick.

Add all of the hot stock to the carrots and stir once again. Cover the soup with a lid and bring it to the boil.

Now it’s time to make the drizzle.

Place all of the drizzle ingredients into a bowl and mix thoroughly. Set aside and allow the flavours to mingle together.

Once the soup has come to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for a further 10 – 15 mins or until the carrots are tender but not mushy.

Remove from the heat and remove the bayleaf. Carefully transfer the soup into a blender. Make sure you only fill three quarters of the blender jug or you will decorate your kitchen and yourself in very hot soup! You will probably have to do this in stages so get a bowl or extra saucepan ready.

Carefully blend the soup until it’s smooth and lump free. You cannot over-blend this so don’t be afraid to give it a little longer in the blender than you think it might need. When I blend hot soup, I also place a tea towel over the top of the blender lid in case any of it escapes. Remember, start blending slowly and work up to a quicker speed. That way, you reduce your chances of hurting yourself.

If you find the soup a little thick at this point, add a little hot water until you reach a thick yet spoonable soup consistency.

Pour the soup into bowls and taking the drizzle mixture, carefully drizzle 3 dsp of it onto each soup. This adds a rather lovely look to the soup as well as giving it an extra dimension of flavour.

Serve immediately.

If you have any drizzle left over, you can place it on the table in case anybody wants any more or you can keep it in a sealed container in the fridge. It will last for ages.

I hope you enjoy eating it as much as I did and don’t forget if you want to receive future blogs by email, just sign up on the top right of this page and they’ll come rolling to you.

Happy Winter everyone!

Love Danny x

The Caper Tree

“Don’t be scared, it’s just food!”

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