It’s still cold and icy, so it’s time for comfort soup. In this house, that probably means potatoes and usually soup. There’s both a shrimp and a vegan version!
It’s been cold and icy, and February arrived this week reminding us that even though the sunlight is slowing returning, we are still sitting firmly in winter. Although we were predicted to get a couple of feet of snow, we ended up with a couple of inches of ice over two days, encasing the trees and making life far more difficult than the snow would have. But there was beauty too. The branches of the lilacs outside my sun porch were encased in little prisms of ice, reflecting all the colors and keeping the photographer in me frustrated because it was impossible to record as we saw it.
Root vegetables are comfort food around here, this time of year, whether by themselves in all their wonderful ways, or supporting actor in soups, stews, casseroles, etc. If I pop a tray of potatoes in the roasting oven, you know I’m probably in need of something I love for dinner.
When I was a kid, potatoes and carrots were at the heart of so many dishes, served round our table with relatives and friends. They were cheap to grow, easy to store, and always in the house. Still are. Nothing fancy, but they were the important, and to me the best back-up in a stew or soup. As a side dish, my mom would simply mash the two together, with a lot of butter, salt, and pepper, and I always loved that flavor. There was hardly anything to it, but I loved it just the same, we all did. Maybe it was the butter!
So simple, and yet so satisfying, especially on a cold winter’s night.
In this dish, I’ve combined those potatoes and carrots, added some garlic and a bit of tomato paste, and blended up half of it all to thicken the soup. The rest goes back in the pot. We didn’t have this as a kid, but we could have! It’s so simple, I don’t even think of it as a recipe.
I’ve used soy milk here, but you can also use any plant milk, dairy milk, or half-and-half. Mom would have used evaporated milk.
Vegan or use shrimp, your choice
This soup is equally delicious vegan using vegetable stock or just water, and there’s a shrimp version here if you want a different flavor and more protein. But still, its all about the humble but delectable potato and carrots! The shrimp is a little special addition, and the shrimp stock made from the shells adds a nice flavor. Wild, medium shrimp, 31 to 40 per pound, are a perfect size for this soup.
See, that didn’t take long! It’s steaming hot, and I’m serving it up with biscuits just like when I was a kid! Pull up a chair, there’s always room for one more.
Humble Potato and Carrot Soup
- 1 tbsp. olive oil
- 2 tbsp. butter or vegan butter
- 1 large onion, diced
- 2 large carrots
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 2 tbsp. tomato paste
- ¼ to ½ tsp. cayenne pepper
- 2 lb. potatoes, chopped
- 3 cups vegetable stock, or water
- 2 cups plant or dairy milk or light cream
- Salt and pepper to taste
Heat a large stock pot over medium high and add the oil and butter. When the butter stops foaming, add the onion and carrots. Sauté until the onions are soft and barely starting to brown on the edges. Add the garlic, tomato paste, and cayenne, and cook another 30 seconds, stirring.
Add the potatoes and the stock or water. The potatoes should be almost covered. Add salt and pepper, bring to a boil, cover, and reduce to a simmer until the vegetables are cooked.
With a slotted spoon, remove half the vegetables to a bowl and set aside. Using an immersion or regular blender, puree the vegetables just until combined, don’t over-blend.
Return the vegetables to the pot along with the milk of choice, correct the seasoning, and heat just to where you want it.
Potato and Carrot Soup with Shrimp
For this version, use a pound of wild 31-40 shrimp.
Peel and devein the shrimp. Season the shrimp and place in the refrigerator until needed. Place the shrimp shells in a pot with a quart of water, a bay leaf, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook for 20-30 minutes. Strain. Use this as your stock in the soup.
After you puree half the veggies, add the shrimp along with the chunky vegetables and cook for a few minutes until the shrimp are pink and tender. Add the milk, and heat to the temperature you like.
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