Jasper Carrot Soup

20 Jul

I broke up the train ride home from Vancouver to Toronto this week with a couple of days in Jasper.

A big wildlife lover, I was thrilled by this mountain town. On a horseback ride along the Athabasca river, I saw a black bear relaxing in the grass, an osprey swooping down from its nesting tower and flower-bright butterflies flitting around the ponies up ahead. And I got to see elk ambling by as I kayaked on the turquoise lake at Jasper Park Lodge.

For the first night in Jasper, I was staying at Tekarra Lodge—where Marilyn Monroe and Arthur Miller spent time in the ‘50s. I had dinner at Tekarra Restaurant, a rustic fine dining spot two minutes from my cabin.

Chef-owner David Husereau has been wooing people up from downtown to his secluded forest restaurant for 17 years with dishes created mainly from mountain ingredients such as bison, elk, wild salmon, juniper berries, maple syrup and morels. He keeps his ideas fresh by rolling up his sleeves during the off-season in kitchens everywhere from Rouge in Calgary—voted one of the world’s top 100 restaurants in 2010—to the Ritz Taichung in Taipei, Taiwan.

At Tekarra, I chose the venison loin with parsnip puree and rosehip jus, and it was delivered in a trail of smoke wafting from a sprig of rosemary, slow-burning like incense in a cinnamon-stick. I half expected Buddhist chants as the server set down the dish. As well as getting a kick out of the spectacle, I appreciated the extra intensity the spicy aromas added to the dish.

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I woke up on day two looking like a leper with chicken pox, who’d rolled in poison ivy. Tip: When in Jasper, slather on insect-repellant and leave as little skin as possible exposed—not that DEET and clothing will stop all the cocky little mosquitos from needling you.

Breakfast and a picnic lunch came from a busy little downtown spot, Bear’s Paw Bakery. I started the day with a clean-tasting brew of organic Mighty Leaf tea and a bear’s paw, of course. The bear’s paw is a doughy, barely sweet pastry spiced with cinnamon that fills your belly for hours to come. Later, I came back for well-stuffed ham and cheese salad sandwiches on soft granary bread.

In between visits to my new favourite bakery, I ventured into the forest with Parks Canada interpreter Jordan Ede (left) on a free guided walk to discover medicinal and edible plants.

Jordan showed us all the plants we’d need to make a theoretical loaf of bread: trembling aspen for yeast and sugar, plantain for flour (and incidental mosquito bite relief), balsam poplar for salt and baking soda-like crystals.

I learned that the buffalo berry was good for feeding bears (they’ll happily eat a quarter million a day), making traditional ice cream or poisoning arrowheads–if the berry juice goes directly into the bloodstream, it’s bad news. And thanks to my guide’s love of memnomics, I came out of the forest knowing how to tell apart the branches of flat, friendly fir; square, spiky spruce and pointed, paired pine.

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I spent the next 24 hours at Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge, where I met sous-chef Anthony Young to cook and to learn about the resort’s commitment to local food.

Up on the roof of the main building he introduced me to the bees with the best view in the world.

They have access to lavender, thyme, pansies, lovage and all kinds of aromatic herbs and flowers in the kitchen garden.

Anthony pumped cedar smoke to mellow out the workers as I gingerly peered at their glistening combs. I loved how the vanilla sweetness of beeswax filled the air the moment we opened up the hive.

Chefs at the mountain property grow their own micro-greens in an on-site hothouse.

Other veggies such as beets, carrots and fennel are grown specially for the resort restaurants by Twin Meadows Organic Produce, about an hour away in BC. The soup Anthony cooked me for lunch when I dropped by his kitchen was made with candy-sweet, crunchy carrots picked and delivered that same day. He typically serves it at the Moose’s Nook Northern Grill, a restaurant specializing in Canadian cuisine.

It was the most carroty carrot soup I’d ever tasted. It was light too, and Chef said customers order it day after day, even in the hottest months. The secret ingredient—fresh carrot juice—adds a brightness and intense orange colour to the pureed carrots at its base.

Anthony adds all kinds of complementary elements before pouring in the hot silky soup, so that you never quite know what’s going to happen in your mouth from one spoonful to the next.

You might get the crunch and acidity of radish pickles, the tang of gumdrop-style orange-and-champagne vinegar gelatine blobs, the veggie freshness of pea shoot pesto or, best of all, the creamy, nutty sweetness of honey pecan yoghurt.

Bless those bees!

*Jasper Carrot Soup
Yield: 10 servings

2 lbs carrots peeled and sliced 1″ pieces
150g onions peeled & chopped
40g garlic peeled and chopped
1.5L vegetable stock or water
2 tbsp olive oil
4 tbsp butter
400ml fresh carrot juice (you can buy in grocery store if you do not have a juicer)
2 tbsp salt
½ tsp pepper

Sweat onions and garlic in oil and butter for 10 minutes, then add carrots and sweat for another couple of minutes with the lid on. Add vegetable stock and fully cook, approx 15 min. Check seasoning then puree in blender on high speed. Thin out with fresh carrot juice to desired thickness (do not boil carrot juice to prevent soup from splitting).

*Not to be mistaken with British comedian Jasper Carrott.

5 Responses to “Jasper Carrot Soup”

  1. F. Antler July 20th, 2012 at 11:41 AM #

    I would love to try this soup, could you please tell me approximately how many onion to use for 150g and approximately how many garlic buds to equal 40g? Thanks in advance.

    • Valerie Howes July 20th, 2012 at 12:27 PM #

      Hi! It’s equivalent to one cup or one medium-to-large-sized onion.

  2. Martine July 20th, 2012 at 12:31 PM #

    Great post! I now wish I had considered getting off the train to join you! Sounds like you made the most of your short stay, including getting friendly with the pesky “moustiques”… I’m sure you missed my After Bite lotion.

    (I love the idea of the “surprises” in the soup!)

    • Valerie Howes July 20th, 2012 at 12:36 PM #

      I would have loved to have had you there, Martine. Horse riding into the forest and seeing the bear up close and passing through a small herd of mother and baby elk was pretty magical. I bought a tube of After Bite and emptied the whole thing in 24 hours!

  3. Curious Cook July 23rd, 2012 at 6:48 PM #

    How many cloves of garlic make 40 g.? It sounds like a lot of garlic.

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