Spice Up Your Winter with this Vegan Beauty
January is National Soup Month.
It’s also National Oatmeal Month and National Hot Tea Month. And some sources even claim it’s Prune Breakfast Month. But that’s too much excitement for me. I’ll stick with soup.
Besides, soup is perfect this time of year. The weather is cold in most parts of the US, so a hot bowl of warming and filling satisfaction sounds mighty attractive. And as noted last week in the recipe for Tuscan Bean and Pasta Soup, after the recent holiday excesses it’s nice to eat simple, healthy food again.
Cauliflower is both exceptionally healthy and in ample supply at the supermarket right now. So why not turn it into soup? Jazzing it up with Indian “curry” spices makes the dish even better.
Recipe: Curried Cauliflower Soup
Recipes that combine cauliflower and potatoes are common in Indian cooking. But they usually appear as side dishes, not soup. In fact, sides are what I intended to make when I created this recipe — until I got sidetracked by the thought of soup.
I've made permutations of this soup several times. It’s particularly tasty made with Roast Cauliflower, but it’s also good when you start with uncooked cauliflower. The vegan version of this recipe (using vegetable stock or water) is sensational. Or you can substitute chicken stock and up the flavor a notch.
As presented, the dish makes a good first course. But if you add a good-sized salad and bread, it’s hearty enough to serve as a main course. If you want a meal-in-a-bowl recipe, you can add some protein-rich white beans to the soup (see Notes).
This dish takes about 15 minutes of prep time and 30 minutes of cooking time. (Add about an hour for roasting cauliflower if you go that route). It yields about 8 servings. Leftovers freeze well.
- 1 head cauliflower, washed, cored, and separated into florets (Roast Cauliflower, either freshly roasted or leftovers, is terrific but not necessary; raw cauliflower works fine)
- 1 big red onion, peeled and diced (you can also use yellow onion)
- 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, roughly chopped (about an inch-long piece, peeled)
- 4 - 6 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped (more if you really like garlic)
- 2 - 3 teaspoons powdered cumin
- 2 - 3 teaspoons powdered coriander
- ½ cup cilantro, cleaned and stemmed (packed tight in measuring cup)
- 2 tablespoons neutral oil
- ~2 pounds waxy potatoes (more or less equivalent in weight to the cauliflower; Yukon Golds are nice)
- ½ teaspoon cayenne (or more to taste; I usually add at least a teaspoon)
- ½ teaspoon turmeric (more if you want the soup to have a more yellow color)
- 2 quarts vegetable stock, water, or chicken stock (obviously, don’t use chicken stock for the vegan version; see Notes for stock substitutes)
- If you want to use Roast Cauliflower and don’t have leftovers on hand, follow these directions for roasting a head of cauliflower.
- Otherwise, wash uncooked cauliflower, remove any leaves, and cut in half through the axis (or poles). Remove the woody core. Cut into florets.
- Peel and dice onions (I like ¼-inch dice, but anything up to ½-inch is fine).
- Cut a piece of fresh ginger about an inch long, peel, and chop roughly (it’s going into a mini food processor, but it works better if you roughly chop it first).
- Peel garlic and roughly chop.
- Wash and stem cilantro.
- Put ginger, garlic, and cilantro in the bowl of a mini food processor (or jar of blender; add a couple of tablespoons of water if you’re going the blender route), and whirl until finely minced. (You can do this by hand, but machines make it easier.)
- Place soup pot or Dutch oven (6-quart or larger) on medium burner. Add oil and heat until it shimmers. Add onion, season with salt and pepper, and sauté until the onion is translucent (about 5 minutes).
- Meanwhile, peel and dice potatoes into pieces of ½ inch or less. (You can do this earlier if you like, right after Step 3. In that case, put the potato pieces in a bowl and cover with cold water so they don’t discolor.)
- When onions are translucent, add the ginger, garlic, and cilantro mixture to the pan and sauté for about a minute.
- Add the cayenne and turmeric, sauté for about 30 seconds, and add the diced potatoes, cauliflower florets, and vegetable or chicken stock or water.
- Bring to a simmer, and simmer for about 30 minutes.
- If you want the soup to have a less chunky, more homogenized texture, you can use a stick blender at this point to blend it. (Be aware that if your stick blender has a plastic shaft, the hot liquid may crack it.)
- Serve. An optional cilantro garnish is a nice finishing touch.
- This soup tastes slightly better when made with Roast Cauliflower, but plain cauliflower works quite well. If I’m roasting cauliflower for a side dish and decide to make this soup, I do two heads so I’ll have leftovers for the soup. Otherwise, I just use plain cauliflower.
- This soup tastes wonderful when made with water, but substituting vegetable or poultry stock does add additional depth of flavor. If you don’t have homemade stock, you can use commercial stock base (vegetable or meat stock that has been reduced to a paste). It’s more flavorful and much better quality than most canned stocks — and much better than bouillon cubes. For more details, see Stock Excuses. My favorite brand is “Better than Bouillon,” which many supermarkets carry (you can also order it from Amazon). I’ve heard great things about Minor’s Brand, though I haven’t used it. They sell primarily to restaurants and other commercial entities, but individuals can order through their website.
- Frying the ginger, garlic, cilantro, and spices in oil with onions (Steps 10 and 11) helps infuse the cooking oil with flavor, and is traditional in Indian cooking.
- Cayenne pepper is the dried, powdered form of the cayenne chile pepper. If you prefer, you could substitute another dried chile powder.
- You can adjust spice quantities to suit your own taste. If you don’t have powdered cumin and coriander on hand, you could substitute curry powder. (Curry powder is a combination of spices that almost always includes coriander, cumin, and turmeric — plus several other spices, depending on the brand.)
- Likewise, you can adjust the quantities of ginger, garlic, and cilantro.
- Alternatively, you could take the flavor in an entirely different direction. You could drop the curry spices, the ginger, and the cilantro, and instead go Mediterranean, with bay leaf, Herbes de Provence, thyme, rosemary — or whatever strikes your fancy.
- If you want to make this a main-dish soup, I would suggest adding some protein. For the potatoes, you could substitute two 16-ounce cans of Great Northern beans (drain and rinse them to wash off the gunk they’re packed in). Or use cooked white beans you’ve prepared yourself. You could also keep the potatoes, adding beans as a plus. It’s delicious both ways. I’ll bet chickpeas would also taste terrific in this soup.
National Food Days
So who decided that January should be National Soup Month? I don’t know, but there are lots of national food days. You can find several lists of them online (examples are here and here; do a search and you’ll find more). The lists aren’t totally consistent. But if you look hard enough, you can find something edible to celebrate just about any day of the year.
“Hey, I’ve got an idea,” I exclaimed to Mrs. Kitchen Riffs as she was perusing the lists. “Maybe next year I should do a post for each and every national food day. The possibilities are staggering!”
“After all that gorging and guzzling, you’ll be the one staggering,” she replied. “And you’ll be longing to celebrate December 30th.”
“What’s on December 30th?”
“National Bicarbonate of Soda Day.”
You May Also Enjoy Reading About:
Tuscan Bean and Pasta Soup
Easy Lentil Soup
Split Pea Soup with Bacon
Black-Eyed Pea and Collard Green Soup
Sweet Potato Chili with Black Beans