Redwall Hotroot Soup

As a child I somehow missed the Redwall books, Brian Jacques’s fantasy series of anthropomorphic animals in medieval times running around adventuring, which is unfortunate because I would have loved them! I’ve started two separate books (I started the first one, Redwall, and then – record scratch – the dish I wanted to make is well described in the fifth, Salamandastron, so then I started that one) and they’re just so beautiful and immersive and I can’t wait to find out more about the richly detailed world as I work my way through the series.

There’s lots of food in the series, which is how I because aware of it in the first place as Diana of Fiction Food Cafe and Catherine of The Gluttonous Geek were talking about it on Twitter. They both have cooked from it, and planned a #RedwallAugust event where we could all cook and share; of course I was all over it, I love that medievally forest food.

Hotroot soup is a dish that’s sprinkled throughout the series, and is especially beloved by the otters. It’s described as being a pot of “shrimp and bulrush soup, flavored with watercress and hotroot pepper, simmering gently on the embers of the kitchen fire.”

For mine, I built a lovely flavorful broth; though you can’t simmer shrimp a long time because they’ll be rubbery, the trick is simmering their shells for a briny shrimpy flavor. The shrimp are gently poached and the greens wilted right before serving.

Green onions stand in for the bulrush, and the titular hotroot here is a favorite of mine, Kashmiri chili. It’s deliciously smokey and spicy, gives a gorgeous red color, and can be powdered – which would make sense as in the book the little otters have a hotroot soup-eating contest and are scooping it in by the pawful!

Redwall Hotroot Soup

  • 1 pound shrimp, rinsed and deveined
  • 1 onion, trimmed, peeled and quartered
  • 1 carrot, trimmed, peeled and cut into large chunks
  • 1 stick celery, trimmed, peeled and cut into large chunks
  • 2 fat cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
  • 2 sprigs rosemary
  • 4 sprigs thyme
  • 1 teaspoon carom seeds (can sub celery seeds)
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • salt
  • 1 tablespoon ghee, clarified butter, or butter
  • 2 green onions, whites sliced and greens cut into long strips
  • 1 teaspoon Kashmiri chili (can sub half paprika/half cayenne, or a combo tweaked to your spice level)
  • 1 small bunch watercress, roughly chopped
  • lemon slices for serving

Peel shrimp and save in the fridge, reserving shells. Bring 6 cups of water to a boil with the shrimp shells, onion, carrot, celery, garlic, rosemary, thyme, carom and fennel seeds, and a teaspoon of salt. Lower to a simmer and simmer, covered, for at least one hour, preferably two hours.

Strain and reserve the broth. In the pot, on medium, heat the ghee, clarified butter, or butter. Gently cook the green onion whites until softened. Add the Kashmiri chili, and cook for about a minute until fragrant, stirring and being careful not to burn. Add the broth to the pot and bring back up to a low simmer. Adjust seasoning if necessary. Add onion greens and cook until soft. Add shrimp and half the watercress (reserving the rest for garnish) until shrimp is pink and watercress is wilted, about two minutes.

Serve hot with watercress and a nice spritz of lemon.

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