Hit the spice route with carrot and coriander soup
Coriander is considered both a herb and a spice since its leaves and seeds are used as ingredients for seasoning. The fruit of the plant contains two seeds which, when dried, are used as the spice.
When ripe, the seeds are yellowish-brown in colour with longitudinal ridges. They have a flavour that is reminiscent of both citrus peel and sage. Coriander seeds are available in whole or ground form.
The name ‘coriander' is derived from the Greek word ‘koris', which means ‘bug'. It may have earned this name because of the “buggy” offensive smell it has when unripe. The use of coriander can be traced back to 5,000 BC, making it one of the world's oldest spices. It is native to the Mediterranean and Middle Eastern regions and has been known in Asian countries for thousands of years.
The Russian Federation, India, Morocco and Holland are among the countries that commercially produce coriander seeds. Coriander leaves (cilantro) feature in the culinary traditions of Latin America, India and China.
Whenever possible, buy whole coriander seeds instead of powder, since the latter loses its flavour more quickly. Coriander seeds can be easily ground with a mortar and pestle.
The seeds and the powder should be kept in an opaque, tightly sealed glass container in a cool, dark and dry place. Ground coriander will keep for about four to six months, while the whole seeds will stay fresh for about one year.
Coriander seeds contain an unusual array of phytonutrients. They are a good source of dietary fibre, iron, magnesium and manganese.
Now for a recipe.
Carrot and coriander soup
Carrots, peeled and chopped: 750 gm
Coriander seeds: 15 gm
Butter: 20 gm
Garlic, crushed: 1 small clove
Veg stock: 1 lt
Fresh coriander, chopped: 50 gm
Fresh cream: 30 gm
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Method: Begin by dry-roasting the coriander seeds in a small frying pan over medium heat, stirring and tossing them around for 1-2 minutes, or until they begin to look toasted and start jumping in the pan. Now tip them into a pestle and mortar and crush them coarsely. Next, heat the butter in a large saucepan, and then add the chopped carrots, garlic and three-quarters of the crushed coriander seeds. Stir the carrots in the buttery juices and crushed seeds, then cover the pan and let the vegetables cook over gentle heat until they begin to soften — about 10 minutes. Next, add the stock and season with salt and pepper and bring everything to the boil.
Then reduce the heat and simmer for a further 15-20 minutes, partially covered, or until all the vegetables are tender. Leave the soup to cool a little, then you can liquidise the whole lot in batches (a large bowl to put each batch in is helpful here). After that, return the purée to the pan and stir in the chopped fresh coriander and 2 tablespoons of fresh cream. Re-heat the soup, then taste to check the seasoning and serve in warmed bowls and garnish each one with a swirl of fresh cream, a sprinkling of the remaining toasted coriander seeds and a sprig of fresh coriander.
Chef de Partie Taj Connemara