Uhoh. I think I may have spoiled a perfectly pleasant soup for myself.
It all started at the market. A choir of vegetables called out my name- fat fennel bulbs, stout carrots, shiny eggplant, big bunches of herbs. They were about as loud as the vendors pushing the last melons of the season (“Madam! A taste! A taste please!”) and I listened.
Arms full of produce, I came home and got cooking. Soon the kitchen smelled of baked eggplant and chopped mint. And then I realised I wasn’t going to be home for five days.
Ah. So how do you keep a pile of carrots and two heads of fennel fresh?
One way is to roast them, simmer them in broth, blitz them with an immersion blender and toss the resulting soup in the freezer. Which is what I did before setting off for London.
Soon after I returned, a bug invaded my system and left me with aching muscles, a sore head, congested everything. I was in no mood to cook and praised the kitchen gods for frozen packets of goodness that turn into dinner with no more trouble then turning on the stove. Night after night. After night.
On day four, the freezer was empty and I could once again breathe through my nose. Praise be to the velvety liquid for nursing me back to health.
Only now the soup and full body misery have become firmly linked in my head. When I see a bowl of orange liquid, I instinctively turn away. It is a sad, sad business.
And spectacularly unfair to the soup, because it is earthy and savoury and sweet, with a clean flavour you do not often get in winter foods. Plus, its bright hue covers some seriously magical healing powers. So make it, but don´t let it be the only thing you eat the next time a bug attacks. You- and it- deserve better.
Roasted fennel and carrot soup
Based on a Sweet Amandine recipe. This bastardized version works, but I bet her careful rendition would be even more delicious.
Pre-heat oven to 220 degrees Celsius.
Peel and rougly chop five or six small winter carrots. Clean two fennel bulbs and slice into thick half moons. Peel a large onion and cut it into eights. Put all vegetables in a baking dish, splash over some olive oil, sprinkle with salt, mix and put in the hot oven. Roast until tender. My vegetables took about 20 minutes to get there, but much depends on their size, so check the tenderness regularly and bake until done.
When the vegetables are tender, place them in a pot and cover with water. Add a chicken stock cube. (Yes, it would be better with real stock, but it’s fine with the cube. Moving on.) With the pot over medium heat, simmer the vegetables until very soft.
Blitz the soft vegetables with an immersion blender and taste for seasoning. It may need more salt, a bit of lemon juice, some pepper. With so many sweet flavors together, pepper and salt are your good friends here. Serve hot, with sturdy bread for dunking.