We seem to be having a long winter. Last year by this time, we were already getting some hot days, but this year Davis is warming up much more slowly. The cold bite hasn't quite gone out of the wind, and the rain is still falling. My thick jacket is still very much in active use, and I'm not happy about it.

    While the weather is staying so stubbornly cold, I've been trying to warm things up with recipes that are hearty, but have some of the freshness of spring. This carrot soup fits the bill. With ginger, curry, and cayenne pepper, it has heat. Cream lends silky smoothness, while carrots create the sweet, nutty base upon which the soup is built. I burned the carrots making it, setting off the apartment's smoke alarm (hence the name "smoky" carrot soup), but was able to pick out the burned bits and make a phenomenal soup out of what was left. With this soup, you can make the best of a long winter.

*serves 2

1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp grated ginger
1/2 tsp curry powder
1/2 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp brown sugar
3 carrots, sliced into thin rounds
6 cups water
1 tbsp heavy cream
1 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
salt to taste

    In a medium saucepan with a thick bottom over medium heat, heat the olive oil until it spreads across the surface of the pot. Add ginger, curry, garam masala, and brown sugar. Cook, stirring, until the spices begin to darken and release smells. Add the carrots and cook for another minute or two with the spices, then add the water and raise heat to high. Bring the pot to a boil, then reduce heat to medium low and simmer for about 45 minutes to an hour, until the carrots soften and the water reduces by about half. Stir the pot occasionally to ensure no carrots are sticking to the bottom. If too much of the water boils off before the carrots are soft, add more hot water and continue to simmer. When the carrots have softened, either pulverise them with and immersion blender, or pour the soup into a standing blender and puree. If you do not have a blender (I don't have one), you can push the carrots through a strainer one spoonful at a time until they are all mashed, then add them back into the soup. Raise the heat to bring the soup to a rolling boil before adding the cream, lemon juice, cayenne pepper, and salt to taste. Boil for about 2-3 more minutes before serving the soup.