After the complexities of the Blue Zone, we thought some simple pressure-cooker recipes would make a welcome change of pace*. Fennel-Carrot Soup with Ginger is the first of 4 or 5 PC posts (vote with your comments!). If you don’t own a pressure cooker, no worries, all of the recipes work the old-fashioned way; they just take a little longer.
People who gladly cook meat or poultry under pressure are often surprised to discover that we bother to cook vegetables the same way. Root vegetables in particular. Rule of thumb: the larger the root vegetable the more time you save. Parsley root, for example, takes less time to cook in a PC than it does to peel. We use it when we need a meal in a hurry, or because the pressure cooker’s simplicity makes it easy to use it while dealing with other components of larger meal that require our attention. Fennel-Carrot Soup with Ginger, for example could be an easy appetizer for 6, or be the quick central player in lunch for 4, with salad and crusty bread (or skip the salad and invite a lovely cheese).
For a long time I stayed away from carrot and ginger soup. I’d order it, expecting something sensual and a little zany, kind of like early Meg Tilly in a pair of wild bowling shoes, but I disappointment inevitably followed. People seem to think that just because carrots and ginger go together, the combination ought to stand on its own. Well, it can’t. Would it kill people to use a tasty stock? Jody initially suggested we do a carrot soup, which I greated with a hearty blah. She countered that this wasn’t any ordinary carrot soup – it was a fennel-carrot soup from Rialto, and my interest perked right back up. The combination is richly satisfying, more than a little French in its flavor profile and a lot mysterious to folks unaccustomed to tasting fennel with carrots–what is that flavor? Enjoy. Ken
*For the full dog-and-pony show on pressure cookers, check out this Chicken Curry from last February.
Fennel-Carrot Soup with Ginger
- 2 ounces unsalted butter
- 2 cups thinly sliced fennel, reserve the frond for garnish
- 1 cup thinly sliced leeks or scallions, white part only
- 2 cups thinly sliced, peeled carrots (3-4 large carrots)
- ½ stalk celery, peeled and thinly sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1½ tablespoons chopped ginger
- Kosher salt and freshly ground white pepper
- 1/3 cup white wine
- ½ teaspoon fennel seeds
- ¼ cup orange juice
- 1¼ cups vegetable or chicken stock
- ¼ cup plain yogurt
The non PC approach: If you opt not to use a pressure cooker, follow the instructions to the point of bringing the ingredients to a boil (Step 2). Cover the pot three-quarters of the way with the lid, reduce the heat to low and simmer until the vegetables are tender, 20 to 25 minutes. You may need to add more broth as it will evaporate a bit. In a pressure cooker the moisture has no place to go.
- Melt the butter in a large pressure cooker over medium heat. Add the fennel, leeks or scallions, carrots, celery, garlic and ginger and cook until the vegetables begins to soften and get a little color, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
- Add the the wine, bring to a boil. Add fennel seeds, orange juice and stock, bring to a boil, cover with the lid and lock in place. Cook over high heat until it reaches high pressure, then reduce the heat to very low, just enough to maintain high pressure. If the pressure drops, increase the heat. Cook at high pressure for 5 minutes.
- Using the quick release method, cool down the pan under running water, and when the pressure is down, remove the lid.
- Puree the vegetables into a soup with an immersion blender. If you like a really fine texture, push through a fine strainer.
- Serve in warm bowls topped with a swirl of yogurt and some fennel fronds.
We served this at Rialto about 10 years ago and I was happy to discover how well it has aged. It’s a potage, a common medieval French technique of combining ingredients on hand, usually vegetables, and cooking them all at the same time with some liquid until they form a “mush” (according to Wikipedia). We did this post during Blizzard Weekend. After a 2-hour tromp in the snow, I was more than happy to eat a bowl of fragrant homey mush.
The recipe calls for leeks or scallions. I’ve always used leeks but by Friday morning supermarket produce shelves were stripped of leeks. (Who knew that leeks were the allium of choice during snow days?) In the spirit of a true potage, we used what was on hand, the scallions, and they worked fine.
Also, we know that some of you are VERY keen-eyed about matching ingredients lists to the photographs, and so may be wondering how I managed to stretch the two large carrots in the photo into 2 cups of sliced carrots. The secret is, I didn’t. I ended up adjusting the recipe, doubling the original 1 cup of sliced carrots into 2. That’s why, despite the photo, you’ll need 3-4 large carrots, as listed in the ingredients.
Go ahead; click on something to see it with a little more detail. Left and right arrow keys will move you through the photos.