I have an uneasy relationship with carrots. I love them raw as much as a donkey (I mean as much as a donkey loves them, not as much as I love eating raw donkeys..anyway) and I think carrot cake is probably my favourite slice with a cup of tea. I enjoy a carrot in a rich casserole and I have been known to eat a homemade coleslaw as long as I have made the mayonnaise, added plenty of eye watering onion and am able to slather it on a thickly sliced ham sandwich, but I am not a fan of the cooked carrot, and carrot soup is about as appealing to me as a punch in the mouth.
Faced with the sad irony that, despite my lack of imagination when it comes to the carrot, there are always about a dozen in the bottom of the weekly vegetable box, rolling around arrogantly as if to say “Yes, it’s us again, let’s hope you don’t let us shrivel away in the bottom of the fridge” I knew something had to be done.
I trained myself to enjoy an aubergine and I’ll be damned if I can’t do the same thing with the carrot.
It’s the sweetness that gets me so I thought adding something earthy might help. I wanted caraway seeds but I didn’t have any, and I’m not about to set off for the shops at 7pm on a Saturday night just to fix an aversion to carrots. Instead I plump for a few juniper berries which worked well and it could probably have accommodated a few more. But it was the addition of lemon zest and juice that was transformational. Suddenly that overpowering sweetness was tamed, there was zing and bite which, with the addition of some sea salt made it reminiscent of some rather good tequila slammers I once enjoyed on a Greek island a few hours before Tony Foster’s favourite t-shirt was slung out into the bay by a drunken companion.
Oh carrot. I was wrong about you and it’s glorious.
Carrot, Lemon & Juniper Soup
8 or 10 carrots peeled and roughly chopped
8 or 10 juniper berries bruised with a heavy object
1 litre of vegetable stock
1 large onion finely chopped
A thick slice of butter
Gently fry the onion in the butter until soft and golden
Add the juniper berries and the zest of the lemon and continue to fry for a minute or so
Add the chopped carrots and continue to fry for five minutes
Add the vegetable stock and simmer for twenty minutes or until the carrots are tender
Blend with a hand blender until the soup is smooth
Add the lemon juice to taste (I like A LOT)
Season generously with salt
Enjoy with some crusty bread and either feel smug at your victory or remind yourself why you always loved carrots