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Creamy, velvet smooth and luscious, this is a very special soup.
I am always amazed that a few ordinary everyday vegetables, carrots, potatoes and onions, simmered in chicken stock can produce such a superb soup.
The addition of star anise maybe adds a little magic.
This is a versatile soup - it can be served quite simply with a little cream or sour cream stirred through - a soup which will almost certainly appeal to children and conservative palates.
With the addition of blue cheese and walnuts it soars to a real culinary high.
Quite outstandingly delicious and a beautiful golden colour, to boot.
If using mature carrots, peel them as their skin can taste a little bitter.
Choose a floury potato, such as Agria or Red Rascal, as they help to thicken the soup.
An all-purpose potato, like Desiree, would also be suitable.
To obtain a really smooth puree, the vegetables must be very well cooked.
No lumpy, hard bits or the soup will not be velvety smooth.
I use my food processor to chop the vegetables for the soup, so much of the tedious work is eliminated.
Process each vegetable type separately.
To chop vegetables to a uniform size, place pieces of a similar size in the processor bowl.
Use the pulse button and pulse several times until the desired size is reached.
The processor will work more efficiently (chop more evenly) if reasonably small quantities are processed at a time.
Creamy carrot soup with blue cheese and walnuts
2 Tbsp butter
1 large onion, peeled and quartered
250g floury potatoes, peeled
1kg carrots, peeled
5½ cups chicken stock
⅓ tsp cayenne pepper
1 star anise
⅓ cup sour cream (I use light)
80g walnut pieces
1 Tbsp maple syrup
40-50g creamy blue cheese, chopped or crumbled
Place the onion into the food processor bowl and process, pulsing until finely chopped. Melt the butter in a large saucepan (16-cup capacity), add the chopped onion and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally until soft and wilted. While the onion is cooking, prepare the potatoes.
Cut the potatoes into chunks roughly the same size and place in the food processor bowl. Pulse until roughly chopped into smallish pieces. Add the potato to the saucepan and stir. Turn the heat to very low and stir from time to time while preparing the carrots. If you think there is any chance of the vegetables catching on the base of the saucepan, remove it from the heat until the carrots are chopped. Return to heat and proceed with recipe.
Cut the carrots into chunks roughly the same size and process them in batches, using the pulse button until each batch is chopped into small pieces. Add to the saucepan. Add the chicken stock, cayenne pepper and star anise to the saucepan and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to a gentle simmer, cover with lid and cook until all the vegetables are very tender. This will depend on the size of the vegetable pieces, but about 20-25 minutes.
Cool a little. Remove the star anise then process in a food processor until very smooth. Return to the saucepan, reheat, stir in the sour cream but do not boil. Taste and add salt if needed.
While the soup is cooking, prepare the walnuts for garnish. Preheat the oven to 200degC. Line an oven tray with non-stick baking paper. Toss the walnuts in the maple syrup and spread out on the tray. Bake in the oven for 5-7 minutes, tossing occasionally, until the nuts are shiny and fragrant. They burn easily so keep a close watch.
Ladle the soup into warm soup bowls. In the center of each scatter a little blue cheese and top with the caramelised walnuts. Alternatively, pass-round the blue cheese and walnuts separately. Everybody can then add their own garnish in quantities to suit. Makes a generous 10 cups.