There’s two things above all others that I’m loving about living in the UK – one is the lack of big, hairy spiders and the other is all the good cooking shows. These two loves of mine are clearly unrelated, but I’m lapping them up in equal measures. Let me begin with the spiders. I’m talking about Huntsmen spiders here – you know the big and furry (and completely harmless) spiders that I’ve had a blood-curdling fear of them for as long as I can remember? Not familiar with them? Lucky you.
Some of my most traumatic experiences have involved finding a spider the size of a dinner plate on my sun visa while driving to work and consequently having a panic attack (no, I didn’t crash the car). And you can imagine my delight at finding a mummy Huntsman hiding in my curtains last year after giving birth to hundreds of baby Huntsmen. Shudder. The most afflicted person in this situation isn’t me, mind you – it’s Mr Crush who has the job of rescuing me whenever I’m confronted with my biggest fear. “Paul! Help!”, I’ll yelp. “It’s a Huntsman!” Growing up in the English countryside, Paul is naturally more adept at dealing with things like stinging nettles and thistle than saving poor damsels in distress from big, scary spiders. Thankfully, he is a fast learner and I well and truly take my hat off.
This brings me to my other love about the UK – cooking shows. A nice change of topic from spiders, don’t you think? I recall from living here in my early 20s the great choice and quality of cooking shows on offer. It’s a good thing we don’t have all these shows on offer in Australia or I’d never leave the house. My current favourites are The Hairy Dieters (which recently overtook Fifty Shades of Grey as bestseller on Amazon and has me thinking twice about baking cakes) and The Great British Bake Off which has me thinking about baking cakes, namely Mary Berry’s treacle tart with woven lattice top. Talk about conflicting interests.
Given my recent outpouring of cake recipes on the blog, I thought a healthy recipe was well overdue. After all, just the other day Mr Crush suggested that I rename Food Crush as Cake Crush. He has a point. You’d be forgiven for mistaking this as a cake blog, but would you believe I actually cook as many savoury things as I bake sweet things, like Mee Goreng from Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty that we cooked for dinner last week, and Antony Worrall Thompson’s Moroccan lamb tagine that we slow cooked for a dinner party on Sunday. Then there’s the carrot and coriander soup that we served as the dinner party starter. It went down a treat. Even the youngest member of the dinner party liked it and she’s only two and a half.
This is an easy, cost-effective and healthy recipe to have up your sleeve for those chilly winter nights when you feel like something comforting. I added a parsnip (simply because I had one in the fridge) which enhanced the flavour and texture as well as a hint of chilli just to give it that extra kick. And I’ll let you in on a tip on how to store carrots - place the tops off and place them in a closed container either wrapped in a damp towel or dunk them in cold water ever couple of days. It really does work.
Carrot and coriander soup
25g unsalted butter
1 garlic clove, chopped or crushed
2 red bird’s eye chillies, chopped (seeds removed)
2 tsp coriander powder
100g chopped and peeled parsnip (about 1)
600g chopped and peeled carrots (about 7 medium carrots)
1 brown onion, chopped
1.2 litres gluten-free chicken or vegetable stock
handful fresh coriander leaves, chopped plus a few sprigs to garnish
handful fresh mint leaves, chopped
a few tablespoons plain yoghurt or creme fraiche
salt and cracked pepper
1. Heat the butter in a large pan over medium-low heat, add the onion and fry for 5 mins until softened, stirring occasionally.
2. Add the garlic and chilli and cook for a further two mins.
3. Add the ground coriander and give it a good stir and then add parsnip and cook for a couple of minutes.
4. Add the carrots and stock and bring to the boil. Cover and cook for 20 mins on a low heat (or until the carrots are tender).
5. Leave the soup to cool a little before blitzing it in a food processor until smooth. It’s best to do this in batches. Have a large bowl on hand to pour the liquidised soup into.
6. Return to pan and stir in the fresh coriander and mint. Once the heat is re-heated, season with salt and pepper and pour into warmed bowls (I warm bowls by pouring boiling water into them and leaving them for a few minutes). Serve with a dollop of plain yoghurt or creme fraiche and a sprig of coriander.