It’s once again Meatless Monday and I’m here to whisper a reminder in your ear. Everyday is meatless for this veteran vegetarian and I encourage those who do serve meat on a regular basis to explore the depths of meatless creations. After all, you don’t know what you are missing until you expand your culinary horizons and it’s a good chance to impress your vegetarian friends and family too. After another frosty week, substantial and warming soups still seem to be in order. Omitting the meat doesn’t mean a bland and boring meal at all as this dish proves.
Without further ado, onto [highlight]the soup[/highlight].
This came together quickly with staples that I have on hand virtually all of the time. A fresh bag of carrots asking to play a shining role and a craving for warming Indian spices and tender chunks of lightly pan-fried paneer cheese resulted in this bowl of creamy comforting bliss. Pure elegance to grace your table year-round.
If you want a vegan version, omit the paneer cubes and use oil and coconut milk instead of butter and cream. The soup will still be silky and satisfying, and it would go well with croutons too if you want to fill it out a bit. As is usual with most soups, this ones tastes better the next day after the flavours have had a chance to mingle. Simply reheat on a low temperature and serve with steaming hot rice and / or[highlight] homemade Indian flat breads[/highlight].
Spicy Carrot Soup with Ginger and Paneer Cubes
For the Paneer:
- 3 tablespoons butter or oil
- 1/2 lb (225 g or 1 1/2 cups) paneer cheese, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
For the Soup:
- 2 tablespoons butter or olive oil
- 2 medium leeks, white and light green parts, sliced
- 1 lb carrots (450 g or 3 large carrots), sliced
- 1 potato, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- 1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
- 2 jalapeños or green chilies, seeded and finely chopped
- 1 1/2-inch piece fresh ginger, grated or minced
- 1 tablespoon ground coriander
- 3/4 teaspoon chili powder
- 2/3 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
- 1/2 teaspoon amchoor powder (optional)
- pinch of cayenne
- handful of dried curry leaves
- 4 to 5 cups vegetable stock
- 1/2 to 1 cup coconut milk or heavy cream
- 1 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
- fresh cracked black pepper to taste
- small handful of fresh parsley or cilantro, chopped
Begin by frying the paneer. Heat the butter or oil in a large non-stick pan over medium heat. When hot, add the paneer cubes and cook, flipping often, until the paneer is lightly browned on all sides. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Set aside.
To make the soup, melt the butter or oil in a large heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. When hot, add the leeks to the pan and stir for 5 to 8 minutes or until the leeks begin to soften Add the carrots, potato, red pepper, jalapeños or chilies, and ginger. Cook, stirring often, for 6 to 8 minutes. Add the ground spices and curry leaves and stir to coat the vegetables. Continue to stir for 1 minute.
Pour in the stock and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. Remove from heat and purée the soup until smooth with an immersion blender or in batches in a countertop blender. Return to the stove and whisk in the coconut milk or cream. Season with salt and black pepper to taste.
Serve hot, garnished with fresh parsley or cilantro and some cubes of the fried paneer.
Makes 6 servings