It’s that time of year when I become completely uninspired in the cooking department. No matter how excited I am to first see the summer produce at the market, by mid-June I just don’t know what to do with it anymore.
I think this might have to do with the fact that I’m Canadian, and summer food is (relatively) foreign to me. I mean, sure we have it, but the season is so comparatively short that my knowledge of warm-weather cooking is limited at best. When I was a kid summer meant barbecues in the backyard, but since I now a) don’t have a backyard and b) no longer eat meat, that’s hardly an option. I’m geographically wired to crave winter foods, and my stamina for summer is sorely lacking. Once I’ve made a few fresh salads and a pasta primavera or two, I’m lost. My winter standbys of curries, roasted veg and soups don’t seem so appealing when the sun is still shining at dinnertime.
When I’m lacking inspiration like this, I tend to fall back on an old trick: using up things in the fridge. Strangely, nothing makes me feel so creative as boundaries. This was true back in fashion school, when designing for a painfully constrictive brief, and it’s true now on a Saturday evening, hungry but at loss for what to cook.
Which brings me to the scene in my kitchen earlier this afternoon: me, opening my fridge in confusion and despair, searching for something that might bring back my will to cook. The carrots I bought last Sunday were begging to be used, going slightly soft in the vegetable crisper. At this point they were only suitable for soup, which for me has always had a slightly autumnal feeling. But then I spied some leftover coconut milk in the door of the fridge, and had an idea. Surely a Thai-style carrot soup was summery?
A glance in my favourite go-to cookbook gave me the framework for a recipe, and slowly, I began to feel somewhat excited at the prospect of food again. I rustled up some garlic, ginger and chilis from around the kitchen, dashed out to the shops for some lemongrass, and began to improvise dinner.
This soup ended up being delicious as well as economical- rich and creamy, but fresh-tasting at the same time. Most importantly, it cured my mental block, at least for one evening.
- Thai-style Carrot and Coconut Soup
- adapted from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman
- serves 2
- 1 Tbs. neutral oil
1/2 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed lightly
1 small red chili, de-seeded and finely chopped
2 small stalks lemongrass, trimmed, bruised and cut into 2″ pieces
200g carrots, washed and cut into 1″ chunks.
small bunch coriander, leaves and stems separated, leaves chopped
1 cup coconut milk
2 cups water
salt, pepper, sugar to taste
- 1. Heat the oil over medium heat in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Add the onions and cook until lightly golden, about 5 minutes.
2. Add the garlic, chili and lemongrass, and cook for two minutes more. Add the carrots and coriander stalks, and cook for a further minutes.
3. Add the coconut milk and water and turn the heat down to low. Cover and simmer gently for 15-20 minutes, until carrots are tender when pierced.
4. Remove from heat and let cool slightly. Carefully fish out the coriander stalks and lemongrass. Puree, either with an immersion blender, or a food processor.
5. Stir in the chopped coriander leaves. Taste, adding salt, pepper, and/or a pinch of sugar as necessary. Re-heat if needed and serve.