In Chinese medicine theory, you want to keep your “middle burner” fire stoked by eating foods that will tonify and regulate your stomach and spleen as these organs are greatly affected by diet as the stomach receives the food, the spleen transforms food into Qi and blood, improper food means insufficient raw material reaches the spleen causing Qi or blood deficiency.
Qi is the central underlying principle in Chinese medicine and is believed to be a vital life force or energy flow of every living thing. Chinese medicine theory says that when Qi flows freely along the meridians, we are free from illness but if the Qi is blocked, pain will follow. We often think of this as physical pain but when Qi becomes blocked, emotional aspects of our lives can become blocked too. When the Qi moves freely our lives flow easily, we can adapt to change and are able to process difficulties. At the physical level this can mean that a body organ and its associated functions will become impeded which in turn can lead to frustration, anger or even reckless behavior. Qi stagnation is most often emotional as feelings and creative impulses which we are unable to process can create blockage. At a physical level, Qi stagnation is aggravated by lack of movement. Movement, at any level of our being, is the key to working with stagnation.
We can promote Qi circulation to some extent with the food we eat. Initial tips are not to overeat and not to consume too much heavy food at one time. Limiting sugar and stimulants as well as chewing your food thoroughly will also help. Choosing pungent ingredients such as onions and garlic will assist with dispersing Qi. Foods that tonify Qi tend to be sweet and warm such as the combination of carrots and onions.
Carrots are a Qi tonic that nourish almost every system in the body but especially the liver, lungs and stomach. They can help to dispel toxins, move energy and treat indigestion.
Garlic is the most pungent onion family member and will promote circulation and help to remove abdominal obstructions and stagnant food. Garlic eliminates toxins and promotes the growth of healthy intestinal flora.
Onions, in addition to being warming help to improve blood and Qi circulation. They detoxify and have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antibiotic and antiviral properties.
Thyme is a warming herb that helps with Qi circulation and indigestion while having both stimulant and relaxant properties so that it can regulate the system as needed.
In this recipe we are combining the Qi and spleen tonifying carrots with the warming and detoxifying onions into a delicious soup that is both comforting and healing. Slightly caramelizing the onions adds a natural sweetness and grilling the carrots adds a welcome smokiness. This is a simple yet satisfying soup that you can choose to puree or leave as is. You may want to add additional ingredients but I think simplicity is key to the success of this soup.
Grilled Carrot and Caramelized Onion Soup
Prep/cook time about 60 minutes
Serves about 8
- 3 Onion, medium, sliced
- 3 Cloves Garlic, minced
- 6 Carrot medium, skin on
- 1Teaspoon Thyme dried or 3 Teaspoons fresh
- 3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
- 11/2-2 Quarts Vegetable Stock
- 1-2 Ounces Sherry vinegar, more or less to balance taste
- Sea Salt
- Fresh Cracked Pepper
Slice and caramelize the onions in a little olive oil.
I like to have the heat on high for the early stages of the process and reduce the heat as the onions begin to cook down so they continue to nicely caramelize but do not burn. You can always add a splash or two of water if you see burning on the edges. You’ll want to keep an eye on these and stir occasionally with a wooden spoon scraping the caramelization off the bottom and lower sides of pan using the moisture of the onions to assist with releasing the caramelization. I recommend a light caramelization and not to go too dark, similar to a French onion soup. Expect the onions to reduce down by about 75-80%.
Add the garlic towards the end of the caramelization process and cook until soft.
Cut carrots lengthwise and toss with a little of the sherry vinegar and olive oil (leaving the skin on) and grill over high heat until slightly charred. Dice the carrot and add to the caramelized onions along with the thyme and stock and bring to a simmer until carrots are tender.
The soup can be enjoyed as is or you can puree it, for this batch I decided to puree about a quarter of it and stir it in with rest just to give it a thicker consistency. Adjust thickness with more stock or water.
Now you can adjust and balance the soup with the acidity of vinegar, just a small amount will help to make the soup have a clean mouth feel and not be cloying or heavy and makes you want to take another taste!
As always adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.