Let’s talk fall. Let’s talk fall in Hamburg. I don’t know what the weather is like where you are, but here wet, windy and beyond chilly. Which means I am desperately seeking cold weather comfort — in which case, means a simple unassuming little bowl of carrot and fennel soup.
For me, soups and stews have that magical ability to bring about warm, cozy feelings… starting from the top of my head, just thinking about it, all the way to the tips of the toes, after savoring it. What I love about fall and winter is that are so many delicious ways to create a satisfyingly creamy soup without the cream. Just plain ole, simple pureed vegetables — everything from pumpkins and winter squashes, to sweet potatoes and a hodgepodge of mixed vegetables, to carrots with another favorite — fennel. I love the fresh flavors, and as a big fan of fresh anise-like fennel, these are ingredients I almost always have on hand.
Vegetable soups are probably the simplest soups ever made from scratch. Often in winter, when I am feeling too tired or lazy to think about what I am going to cook that evening, I just throw a pot on the stove, sauté some onions and garlic with olive oil and dried thyme, then add some vegetable or chicken broth, simmer it along with carrots (a staple in our household) and whatever other vegetables happen be to on hand – whether it be broccoli, kohlrabi, Brussels sprouts, pointed cabbage, celery root or even chopped up tomatoes – pretty much about anything goes. You just throw everything into the pot, season with salt and pepper and walk away. A quick and easy dinner. One that can easily be turned into something more energizing with the simple addition of quinoa, buckwheat or brown rice – or of course, your favorite soup noodles.
When I can get my hands on them, I skip the latter and add Leberknödel. Leberknödel is something I fell in love with and developed a what seemed to be weekly addiction for while living in Munich. Beef liver dumplings. Sounds delicious, right? I’m pretty sure it’s one of those things you either love or loathe…and some of you may just be cringing now at the thought of it. From my perspective, two words: SO GOOD. Thank you Bavaria.
Simple Carrot and Fennel Soup
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 small yellow onions, chopped
1 kg carrots, peeled, trimmed and sliced
2 bulbs of fennel, trimmed and sliced, fronds reserved for garnish
6 cups vegetable broth (1.5 liters)
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Greek yogurt or crème fraîche, to serve
TIP: I also like to top my soup with fresh cilantro leaves and spice it up a little with freshly ground chili flakes.
1. Heat the oil in a large soup pot over medium heat.
2. Cook the onion, stirring frequently until soft, about 8-10 minutes. If they start to brown, add a little water to the pot. Add the carrots and fennel, cover with a lid and cook for 5 minutes.
3. Add vegetable broth, garlic, ground coriander and cayenne. Bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer, cover partially, and cook until vegetables are completely soft, about 30 minutes.
4. Using a blender (or handheld immersion blender), work in batches to puree the soup until smooth and creamy. Return the pureed soup to the pot. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
5. Spoon into soup bowls and garnish with a dollop of yogurt or crème fraîche and the reserved fennel fronds.