Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Flemish Carrot Soup


I made this traditional flemish carrot soup last week but forgot to post it until today. The word Flemish, is related to the the word Flanders. Flemish people are people living in Flanders, the northern part of Belgium, whose native language is Dutch. In Wallonia, the southern part of Belgium, live the Walloons who speak only French. The capital Brussels, also the capital of Europe, is supposedly bilingual but is mainly francophone and a lot of expats speak English there. By the way, there is also a 60,000 strong German-speaking minority in Wallonia and the third official language is German. And Flemish students have to master 4 languages in school, the fourth language being English. Complicated, isnt it? 

Anyway, the language issue is very very sensitive in Belgium, a country which is still struggling to form a government since the elections in June 2010. So far, no solution is in sight, the 2 sides keep negotiating, talk and talk until the cows go home, but cannot come to an agreement on how they want to rule a country which is already splitted into 6 regional governments and 1 federal government. It is the umpteenth time that the government has broken down since 2007 due to the language divide and border divide. I wonder if they will really consider to split the country into north and south if the negotiations break down again. But what will happen to Brussels, the main crux of the issue is both sides want to have a share of the "crown jewel", that is the problem.

Anyway, let's not talk about politics. Autumn is already here, come enjoy a bowl of hot flemish carrot soup with me :)

Adapted from Everybody Eats Well in Belgium by Ruth Van Waerebeek

INGREDIENTS (serves 3 to 4)
3 tbsp unsalted butter
3 medium leeks, white and light green parts only,rinsed well and thinly sliced
(I used 5 minced garlic cloves in place of leeks)
1 large onion, sliced
1 litre chicken broth, preferably homemade 
3-4 carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch slices
1 large baking potato, peeled and cubed
1 tbsp fresh thyme of 1.5 tsp dried thyme
1 bay leaf (optional)
1 cup milk, plus additional if needed
salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste
2 tbsp minced fresh parsley
croutons, flavoured with parsley and thyme

METHOD
1. Melt the butter in a heavy soup pot over medium heat. Add the leeks and onions and cook, stirring until softened but not browned, about 10 min.

2. Add the chicken broth, the water, carrots, potato, thyme, and bay leaf. Simmer, covered until the vege are very soft., 35 to 40 min. Remove from the heat and let cool a little. Discard the bay leaf.

3. Puree the soup in small batches in a blender or food processor. Return to the soup pot and stir in the milk (add a little more if the soup is too thick). Season with salt and pepper. Reheat the soup and serve sprinkled with minced parsley. Pass a bowl of freshly made croutons at the table.

Serves 4 to 6

You can substitute 1 bunch of scallions for the leeks.

For a delicious variation, leave out the leeks and cook 5 minced garlic cloves with the onions. Add 2 roasted, peeled and diced red bell peppers with the carrots. The result is a very vivid and intensely flavoured soup.

Note: The original recipe used 2 cups chicken broth and 4 cups of water to make a soup for 4 to 6 people. I have reduced the quantity to 3 or 4 cups of chicken broth for 3 to 4 persons. Similarly the original recipe called for 1.5 pounds of carrots but I used only 3 carrots. The rest of the ingredients were kept the same.

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