by Megan Gordon
Because so much of the recipe development I do these days involves whole grains, there are times when I rely heavily on different flours or grains for a short period and then grow tired of them. Quinoa had a strong run last spring, and in the summer I found myself making either millet or polenta in some form practically every day of the week.
I’ve just started using a new grain in the kitchen, and I’m quite smitten, maybe for the long run.
Sorghum is a gluten-free grain that’s common in African and Indian cuisine. I love it because it’s truly unlike any other grain: It’s hearty and chewy without feeling overly heavy and has a mild, earthy flavor. I think sorghum would be a really easy swap-in for any recipe that calls for pearl couscous (it has a similar look once cooked) or for a more substantial grain like farro or wheat berries.
It’s not one of the quicker-cooking grains (it takes about 45 to 60 minutes to fully cook), but it does reheat beautifully, so I’ve been making a pot at the beginning of the week and tossing it into salads … and into soups, as you can tell from this new favorite cold-weather recipe. If I’m making the grain into a salad or pilaf-style dish, I will cook it for 60 minutes, because once it splays open (which takes about 60 minutes), it absorbs sauces and flavors more. But for this soup, it continues to cook and soften as the soup simmers — so the initial cook time is a little shorter.
During the cold-weather season, I crave creamy vegetable soups and often make big batches and freeze leftovers. This carrot and sorghum soup would be a good contender for that “stocking up” gesture, except we always eat it before it makes its way to the freezer.
At its heart, this is a pretty basic carrot soup, but it becomes special with the addition of the warm spices and sorghum. Essentially, you simply cook down an onion with some Moroccan-inspired spices, then add the carrots and sweet potato and let it simmer until the vegetables are soft. After pureeing the soup, I fold in the cooked sorghum, adjust the seasoning, and finish it with a swirl of tart, plain yogurt.
It’s one of those recipes that is, truly, better the second day and keeps for a good week in the refrigerator, so it’s always a great candidate if you’re having company or have a good-sized soup-loving family. I’d love to hear what you think, or if you try it with a different grain you love!
1/2 Cup sorghum
1 1/2 Cups water
3 Tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 Medium white onion, chopped
2 Teaspoons fennel seeds
1 1/2 Teaspoons cumin seeds
1 1/4 Pounds carrots, peeled and sliced into 1/4-inch thick coins
1/2 Pound sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed (1 large or 2 medium)
6 Cups low-sodium vegetable broth
1 Teaspoon ground coriander
1 Bay leaf
1 Teaspoon fresh lemon juice
Kosher salt, to taste
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
Plain yogurt, to serve (optional)
Rinse the sorghum and place in a pot with water. Bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat to a simmer until the grains are tender, about 45 minutes. Drain away any excess liquid and set aside.
In a large soup pot over medium heat, warm 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and cook the onion until soft and translucent, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the fennel and cumin seeds and cook, stirring until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes. Add sweet potatoes, carrots and remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil and stir well to coat with onion mixture. Cook down for 5 minutes. Add broth, coriander and bay leaf.
Bring mixture to a very low boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer until vegetables are tender, 25 to 30 minutes. Discard bay leaf and puree soup in batches in a food processor or with an immersion blender. Stir in the cooked sorghum and add lemon juice, salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Serve hot with a generous swirl of plain yogurt on top.
Note: I generally always buy low-sodium vegetable broth so that I can ultimately control the amount of salt in the soup recipe. So depending on what kind of broth you use, you may need to adjust the seasoning at the very end.