Carrot & Cumin

It’s been a while, but the Easter holidays have not left a whole lot of time for blogging! However, I have a couple of recipes to post including this soup from February when the rain wouldn’t stop and it felt like the only thing that would do.

My initiation into Indian ‘spices’ came in the form of  ‘The 70’s Curry’, a dish amusingly familiar to many of my contemporaries, and usually made from left-over roast lamb and a spoonful of Sharwood’s Curry Powder on a Monday night. Common to all however, seems to have been the rather bizarre but compulsory addition of fruit. For my mother it was apples (due to the surplus produced by my father’s orchard). For others, it was ‘exotic’ pineapple or banana (?) but always sultanas. Always sultanas. As I hated sultanas (and still do) curry nights would be hell for me, and a subsequent questionable encounter with a Vespa curry (a packet meal to which water was added…..) prepared by my first boyfriend (in an effort to impress) put me off Indian food for far too long. As with many of us however, I was saved by the Korma, attempted in a dodgy Indian in Coventry after a few too many in the Union bar, and I have now graduated to virtually the entire menu (but frequenting much nicer restaurants, you understand).

I don’t cook a lot of curries from scratch – I tend to use a good curry paste – but one spice I have particularly grown to love is cumin and while researching it, I found it has a fascinating history (prepare to be educated)! – thank you to www.whfoods.com.

“Cumin is native to Egypt and has been cultivated in the Middle East, India, China and Mediterranean countries for millennia. Cumin was mentioned in the Bible not only as a seasoning for soup and bread, but also as a currency used to pay tithes to the priests. In ancient Egypt, cumin was not only used as a culinary spice, it was also an ingredient used to mummify pharaohs.

Cumin seeds were highly honoured as a culinary seasoning in both ancient Greek and Roman kitchens. Cumin’s popularity was partly due to the fact that its peppery flavour made it a viable replacement for black pepper, which was very expensive and hard to come by. During the Middle Ages in Europe, cumin was one of the most common spices used. Around that time, cumin added another attribute to its repertoire—it became recognized as a symbol of love and fidelity. People carried cumin in their pockets when attending wedding ceremonies, and married soldiers were sent off to war with a loaf of cumin bread baked by their wives. Cumin’s use for fortifying love is also represented in certain Arabic traditions in which a paste of ground cumin, pepper and honey is thought to have aphrodisiac properties.

Who knew?

In the past I have used cumin with garlic, lemon, ginger and mint, and I prefer to grind and toast the seeds rather than use pre-prepared powder.  My abiding favourite pairing however, is the humble carrot. I think cumin lifts it to a completely higher plane, and even more so when it’s roasted and sweetly sticky.  This soup is fantastic for a cold dark day, which it happened to be when I made it (not so much now Spring is here, but hey ho!).

 INGREDIENTS – makes 4 large bowls

150g Butter

150g onions, chopped

300g Carrots

2 garlic cloves, crushed

1 large tsp Cumin seeds

1 tsp Madras curry powder

300ml chicken stock

 METHOD

–       Pre-heat the oven to 220 degrees centigrade.

–       Parboil the carrots (I find doing this prior to roasting ensures the carrots are cooked through properly and caramelize better).

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–       Chop the onion with the garlic (another really useful photo!)

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–       Sweat the onion, garlic. Add the curry powder and cook for 2 – 3 minutes.

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–       Toss the carrots in chicken fat (I always seem to have some lurking at the back of the fridge after a roast, and it really does add great flavour) or sunflower oil and Cumin seeds.

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– Roast on a baking tray for 30 mins until caramelized (warning: it will take consiserable willpower at this stage not to shove the whole lot into your mouth with your bare fingers…).

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–       Add the stock and carrots to the onions.

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–       Blend to a smooth puree and season with salt and pepper.

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Serve with swirl of crème fraiche and chopped coriander (I had neither to hand, but it was still fabulous).

Do you have any favourite Cumin recipes?

 

 

 

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