If you tell me I can't have something it inevitably makes me want it more. I'm guessing you know the feeling. So say you are in a restaurant and you smile and make small talk with the chef about Swiss chicken farms and then in a tone bordering on begging ask if perhaps just maybe he would share his recipe for that edible spiced velvet that he referred to as carrot and coriander soup, and all you get in response is a sideways smile and a quick topic change. Frustrating, right? Gosh Darn it! If you are anything like me it means that all hopes of a productive afternoon are lost into the black hole - commonly known as the internet - as you search for a recipe that hints at the magic of the original.
I had a head start: I knew that the soup was a vegan soup. In a country where soup seems to be another name for hot cream with a faint murmur of flavor stirred in, this was nothing short of amazing; a thick, smooth and richly flavored soup without any of the cream ladled guilt. None of us ordered the soup because we simply assumed it was cream based, and to our credit so did the waitress when we asked her, "Oh, there is definitely cream in there" she said. Hmpf! Here's to educating the wait staff. Anyway, surprised that we had all chosen the salad to start the chef came to ask us why and we all feigned cream aversion. Disgruntled that we had made false assumptions and that our waitress had bolstered them, he sent out shot glass sized soup portions for all of us to try. Before I even had a chance to swallow the sweet spiced soup I thought, "Best Soup Ever?"
Isn't it funny how one meal, generally the meal you are eating, if it is good, can overshadow ever other meal you've eaten? What about my favorite onion soup at that cute little restaurant in Providence with the yellow and green striped awning that serves warm slices of french bread alongside bubbling bowls of cheesy-oniony goodness? Totally forgotten; at least momentarily.
The sweetness of the cooked carrots and the nutty lemon spice of the coriander mingle in a way that will make you question if there are carrots in the soup at all, and if not, then what on earth is the magic ingredient that renders the soup so darn tasty. Since the chef wouldn't share, I can't be sure that his recipe doesn't include love potion #9 and unicorn horn, but I can tell you that I made something pretty darn similar with only carrots, onions, coriander and vegetable broth.
I guess the question a lot of you might have right now is not about magical ingredients, but about why on earth I want to make a hot soup in the middle of July. If you are one of those people I'm guessing that you are in the States, riding the standing-wave of an intense mid-summer heat that shows no signs of relenting. But, you see, here in Zürich it has been rainy and grey. It seems that every sunny day is followed by four rainy days. In a country without air-conditioning this is really more of a gift than a curse. And if rain is a gift, then this soup is a stocking stuffer.
It's a bit surprising that I love this soup so much considering that generally I prefer soups with texture and chunks. I guess this soup is an exception. I resisted the urge to plop big crusty croutons in it, and instead ate some toast smeared with goat cheese and honey. I brought the bread and cheese back from Paris. It was rainy and cold there too and since I couldn't make soup I ate pastries and torn baguettes slathered in butter and cheese. It was only there for three days; I left on Wednesday and got back yesterday, but apparently that is enough time to form a madeleine habit, a goat cheese addiction and a full blow crush on Paris, even rainy Paris.
// carrot and coriander soup //
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 lb / 450 g carrots, sliced
1 medium onion, sliced
1 teaspoon ground coriander seeds
4 cups / 1 liter vegetable stock
bunch of fresh coriander (cilantro) chopped
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Heat the olive oil in a medium sized pot over medium heat. Add the onions and carrots and cook until they start to get soft, about 5 minutes. Add in the ground coriander and continue to cook for another minute. Pour in the vegetable stock and bring it to a boil and then lower the heat to a simmer. Cook uncovered until the vegetables are soft, about 20-25 minutes. Using an immersion blender or regular blender, blend the soup until super smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste and perhaps a little more ground coriander if you wish. Stir in the freshly chopped coriander and serve.Rain seems to follow visitors into town, obscuring the mountains and making touring a soggy activity. To show our friends that the mountains really are there at the end of the lake we took a quick day trip to Flumserberg where we ooo'd and ahhh'd at the Wallensee, hiked through the clouds and rode the Floomzer back down. Assured that the Alps exist they left for Iceland in search of rotten shark.