Carrot Coconut Curry Soup with Fried Rice Croutons

Fried Rice Croutons:
1/4 cup basmati rice
1/4 cup water
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
Pinch of salt

Soup:
2 tablespoons coconut oil (or olive oil) 2 small shallots, minced
3 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
7 small carrots, peeled and diced (equals to about 2 cups of carrots)
1 tablespoons red curry
2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
3 cups vegetable broth
1 15-ounce can of coconut milk (1 1/2 cups coconut milk)
1/2 teaspoon table salt, plus more if needed

1. To make the fried rice croutons, mix the rice, water and garlic powder together in a rice cooker. Cook, using your rice cooker's instructions, until the rice is tender and water has evaporated. Transfer the rice to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator so the rice can "dry out" for about at least 2 hours, ideally overnight. This will make it more fry-able.

2. In a medium pot, heat the coconut oil, over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the shallots and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Next, add the garlic cloves, carrots, red curry and fresh ginger; stir until everything is thoroughly mixed and cook for about a minute, until very fragrant.

3. Mix in the veggie broth and coconut milk. Once the mixture reaches a slight simmer, turn the heat down to low, cover the pot and allow to cook for 20 minutes, until the carrots are tender when poked with a fork.

4. If you have an immersion blender, puree the soup until smooth. If you don't have one, no biggie. Carefully add the soup to the blender (you'll have to do this in a few batches) and puree the soup, being sure you allow the hot air to escape (if not, you'll have a bit of an explosion on your hands). Adjust the soup's consistency, if you like. I added about 1/2 cup of veggie broth to thin it out just a bit. Next, salt to taste. (I added about 3/4 teaspoon of salt). Turn the heat to low to warm while you make the fried rice croutons.

5. At this point the rice should be dry. Line a 8x8-inch baking dish with foil. Press the rice onto the foil, creating one even layer. Give it a few more presses, just to be sure the rice is compact and adhering. Lift the foil out baking sheet (the rice should be a circular kind of shape); trim the sides with a knife and cut the compressed rice into squares (these don't have to be perfect).

6. In a sauté pan, pour in 2 tablespoons of olive oil. When very hot, gently add the rice croutons and fry on each side until crispy, about 1 minute. Immediately transfer to a paper towel to drain and sprinkle with salt. Repeat with remaining rice croutons (this amount should give you about 8).

7. Divide the soup between bowls and garnish each one with a sprinkling of freshly chopped cilantro and a few fried rice croutons.

Serves 3-4

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