Carrot and Leek Soup is not my vision; rather, it belongs to my little boy who also loves to cook. Much like my husband and I love food, our little boy also loves food. He prepares breakfasts on Sunday mornings, and takes great care in the way he scrambles the eggs or chops the fruit for salad. He also spends time in the kitchen with me, that is when he’s not otherwise preoccupied with legos or Lemony Snicket books.
Kids in the Kitchen
Many people ask me how to get their kids to enjoy real foods, and I answered this question in my talk for the Healthy Life Summit, one thing I invariably tell them is to involve children in the growing, selecting and cooking of foods. Choice excites children, and empowers their love of real food. I often set a small amount of our food budget aside for my little boy – to let him select some foods not only for himself, but also for the whole family. This helps him to understand the importance of his choices and how they affect other people.
The Story of My Little Boy’s Soup
The story of this Carrot and Leek Soup began last week. My husband and I had busied ourselves with our last minute work on the farmers market. Too busy to cook, I took my hungry boy to a nearby restaurant for a grass-fed burger – and within a few days we came down with a nasty stomach virus that left us weak, riddled with pain and suffering from fevers up to 103 F. For much of that time, we were unable to eat anything but broth, applesauce, and ginger beer.
As the days of fever and illness wore on and on last week, his frustration with the bland and unsatisfying diet of applesauce and broth increased. On day four, he nestled his head against my shoulder and cried – upset at sickness, upset at fatigue, upset at the lack of decent food. Our nutritional therapist had encouraged soups for the first few days as illness abated, and I offered to him that he could create our next soup, and he created Carrot and Leek Soup with Toasted Mustard Seeds.
The Flavor Bible
On the first day after our symptoms had largely disappeared, he tore through the refrigerator and my cupboards – pulling out vegetables and spice upon spice. Then I pulled the Flavor Bible off of the book shelf, and we sat together and looked through it for direction. He knew for certain he wanted to combine carrots and leeks, so he flipped through until he reached those sections and looked through once more to see which compatible and complementary flavors they shared in common – toying first with sweet bay before settling on mustard seeds and chives.
The book helped him, as it often helps me, to find compatible flavors when I feel otherwise stuck for ideas. It’s a brilliant book, heavy and complete. The book lists each ingredient, from the mundane to the exotic, alphabetically along with characteristics of the ingredient and a list of complementary flavors that were compiled from the menus of leading chefs. It is a book ripe with inspiration, and is particularly helpful when you may not be familiar with an ingredient – such as one that might appear mysteriously in your weekly CSA box.
After he selected his ingredients, we began cooking together – chopping, sauteing, simmering our way through leeks and carrots, mustard seed and stock for a simple soup, and the first substantial bit of real food we’d enjoyed in days. The flavor of mustard blended beautifully with leeks and carrots, giving the traditionally sweet vegetables a pleasant bit of an acidic edge. And he felt good – nourishing his wrecked little belly’s want for food, and nourishing his sense of self-efficacy and mutual support.
- 2 tablespoons mustard seeds (I buy mine here.)
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 large leek, white and light-green parts only, sliced thin
- 12 medium carrots, scraped and sliced into 1/4-inch thick rounds
- 1 teaspoon unrefined sea salt
- 1 1/2 quarts fresh chicken broth (Get the recipe here.)
- 1 cup whole milk
- sour cream, to serve
- chopped chives, to serve
- Set a heavy-bottomed stock pot (like this one) over high heat. Toss in the mustard seeds, and cover the pot. Allow them to cook in the heat of the stove until you hear them popping, then immediately reduce the heat to medium-low, and stir in the butter. When the butter melts, stir in the leeks and carrots. Sprinkle the vegetables with salt, cover the pot again, and sweat them until the leeks soften and become tender - about 4 minutes.
- Increase the temperature to medium-high, pour in the chicken broth and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes. Turn off the heat. Blend with an immersion blender (I use this one.) until smooth, then stir in the milk. Adjust seasoning with additional salt as you like it, then ladle into soup bowls. Serve with a dollop of sour cream or homemade yogurt and a sprinkling of fresh chives.