One of the reasons I love winter is because you can make a hearty soup that warms the body and soul. You kind of feel good tucking into a bowl of wholesome soup because you know it is very nourishing. I love to experiment not only with different flavour combinations but also incorporate beans or lentils or grains for the protein.
When I was growing up I hated cooked carrots, felt that they have a smell and it is more pronounced on cooking. Luckily I got over that and carrots cooked or raw are absolutely delicious. The soup is a bit different in the sense that I cooked the lentils separately.
500g carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
100g onions, diced
50g fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
2 plump cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 and a half litres of boiling water
2 tablespoons of lemon juice (1/2 lemon)
150g red lentils, rinsed
4 tablespoons crème fraiche
4 teaspoons sesame oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ teaspoon of red pepper flakes (dried)
½ teaspoon Aleppo style chilli powder
Toast the fennel seeds in a small saucepan over a medium heat for a couple of minutes. Once cool enough, powder using a mortar and pestle. In a separate large saucepan, pour the vegetable oil and fry the onions and ginger. Sauté until the onion is soft and toss in the carrot chunks. Stir fry for three minutes.
Add the garlic, turmeric and the powdered fennel. Sprinkle a generous amount of salt and pepper to the saucepan and mix well. Pour over the boiling water and cook on a gentle simmer uncovered for 30 – 35 minutes.
While the carrots are cooking, put the rinsed lentils into another small saucepan. Pour two cups water and cook on a gentle simmer for 20 minutes. You may need to mix from time to time to prevent the lentils from sticking to the bottom.
At the end of the cooking time for carrots, use an immersion blender to blitz the mixture to a smooth puree. Adjust seasoning and return soup to the heat and mix in the lentils. Stir and bring to the boil. Stir in the lemon juice.
Divide the soup between 4 bowls. Spoon the crème fraiche into each bowl and drizzle the sesame oil. Finish with a sprinkling of the red pepper flakes and the chilli powder.