(No gluten or dairy; with options for nightshades, legumes, cane sugar and protein sources)
A budgeter’s salvation; an easy to digest, historically validated, therapeutic meal choice; and a creative cook’s plaything: soup caters to many needs. This one is so thick the stock can be lessened to turn it into a one-pot stew with the addition of noodles, or served alongside rice. Note the other variations as below. Also to its credit is the use of several spices now linked with improved immunity and cardiovascular health (see HEALTH STORE for my report: The Heart of the Matter: Significant Strategies for Preventing – and Repairing – Heart, Arterial, Stroke and Other Cardiovascular Damage). The spices and every other ingredient are available at the supermarket.
Some people have commented that my recipes have quick and easy methods but long ingredient lists. The latter is used to layer in flavours, particularly seasonings. There is an art and science to this. Just throwing herbs or spices onto bitter foods (such as greens) or starches (such as rice, potato or legumes) will taste strident and unconnected.
There is a classic way that all cuisines use to create symphonic harmony, so the taste buds on your tongue go, “More please”. Include a little good quality fat, a little natural sweetener, and a culinary acid. The latter includes sour foods such as lemon or lime juice, vinegar, wine, and fermented milks such as yoghurt. There are specific zones on the tongue for each taste: sweet, sour, salty, bitter; plus an over all favouring for a coating of fat. The more of these registers you ‘hit’ is like engaging an additional orchestra member to contribute, with more complex and satisfying results.
Any recipe based on 4 or so ingredients – and there are some trendy books out with this format – will be reliant on highly processed foods (“add 1 tin Cream of Chicken soup”) or dominated by high fat foods, often dairy-based and technologically manipulated: modern cheese, cream, butter or chocolate. All these are fine on occasion, but like many once-were-treats get consumed daily if not several times per day, by bodies too sedentary.
1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil*, or cold-pressed peanut oil
6 cups mixed vegetables (such as kumara, carrot, leek and mushroom)
1 red chilli, chopped (optional)
1 Tbsp ground coriander
2 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsp chopped garlic
2 tsp chopped gingerroot
1 tsp ground cardamom
1 tsp turmeric
375 ml (1½ cups) homemade, or top quality chicken or vegetable stock*
1½ cups cooked and drained cannellini beans or other dried beans* (or use
400 g tin, drained); or meat/fish as below
½ cup tinned coconut cream*
4 Tbsp naturally fermented soy sauce* or Thai/Vietnamese fish sauce*
3 Tbsp peanut butter* or option as below (eg Ceres’ brand;
avoid types with sugar and additives)
3 Tbsp apple cider vinegar or rice vinegar
2 Tbsp palm sugar* or organic dark brown sugar
In a medium to large saucepan, over low heat, lightly sauté the vegetables and optional chilli without browning. Cook about 5 minutes with the lid on until lightly softened. Add the coriander, cumin, garlic, ginger, cardamom and turmeric. Cook with the lid off for 3 minutes or more to develop their flavours. Add the remaining ingredients: stock, legumes/option, coconut cream, soy sauce, peanut butter, vinegar and sugar. Cover and bring almost to the boil. Over low heat, simmer for 10 minutes or more until thickened, and the vegetables are soft.
• No legumes: replace peanut butter with other nut butter or tahini; replace beans with 1 1/4 cups meat or fish, and 1/4 cup noodles as below; replace soy sauce with fish sauce.
• More protein: when simmering add left-over cooked meat; finely chopped raw chicken; sliced fresh fish; squid rings; frozen prawns; or cubed tofu.
• More bulk: when simmering add ½ cup broken Asian rice noodles; have extra stock on hand if this gets too thick.
• Stew version: prepare as per basic recipe but use only ¾ cup stock; or add noodles as above.
Shopping and Preparation Tips*
• Coconut cream: a tinned product from the South Pacific and found in most supermarkets. It should have the consistency of pouring cream and contain no dairy, flour or added sugar. ‘Lite’ types are not necessary: they just have added water and more processing. Instead use only a small amount of the ‘cream’ version, or thin with water, Milk Option or stock – depending on the needs of your recipe.
• Fish Sauce: refers to the amber, translucent Thai version (Nam Pla) or Vietnamese product (Nuoc Mam) available in small bottles in most supermarkets (near soy sauce or Asian foods section). It is made by fermenting small fish until a rich, salty liquid develops – similar in use and concept to soy sauce. Some contain a little sugar but due to lengthy fermentation this is usually tolerated by those cane sugar-sensitive. Chinese fish sauce is thick and brown like gravy, and not recommended due to the MSG (TIPS) and other artificial additives (also contains wheat).
• Legumes: pod-bearing plants such as peas, beans, soy and lentils. Soak overnight and discard water to help eliminate an enzyme that can lead to poor digestion and gas. Add ample fresh water. Bring to a boil uncovered (watch for foaming; do not add salt as this slows cooking) until soft enough to squeeze between your fingers. They will almost triple in volume. See The Shape Diet for individual cooking times. Or buy cooked and tinned (Ceres and Delmaine brands in supermarkets have only salt, water). Cook extra and freeze, or chill and use within a week in fritters, casseroles, salads, soups, stews.
• Nut butter: peanut butter is the well known example but also in most supermarkets are almond butter and cashew butter. Ceres’ brand is organic and has no sugar, artificial additives or highly processed fats unlike most other brands. Health stores also offer hazelnut, macadamia, sunflower, brazil and walnut butters – some are stiff (eg walnut) and some are runny (eg macadamia).
• Olive Oil: extra virgin olive oil is achieved by using cold mechanical pressure rather than the high heat and chemical solvents typical to most supermarket oils. These practices damage oils and the people who eat them. For information on which fats to choose for which purpose and why, see my article on the TIPS page: The Fats of Life.
• Palm sugar: comes from the syrup of palm trees. It is moist and caramel in colour and taste. Packed in boxes of small brown rounds or squares, it is traditionally used in Thai cooking. It is available from most supermarkets next to other sugars (including organic cane sugars). Chop, grate or melt.
• Pasta/Noodles: boil Asian rice noodles in ample water about 5 minutes until tender (or follow packet instructions as per minimum time); drain, rinse to prevent sticking; use. Orgran makes a wide variety of gluten-free pasta available in most supermarkets; usually rice-based or with buckwheat, corn, tapioca or mung bean flour (TIPS: Gluten). Lower in protein than ordinary pasta these are high-GI, so accompany with other blood sugar moderators (eg protein, fat, fibre, culinary acids, crunchy texture).
• Soy sauce: can be a fake, unfermented chemical concoction of caramel colouring, artificial additives, wheat and cheap salt. True soy sauce contains nothing artificial and is naturally brewed for two to three years. It is made by fermenting soybeans with the help of a healthful mould (similar to making yoghurt or cheese); roasted grain – usually wheat or barley – for flavour and fermentation, plus salt. ‘Shoyu’ is the Japanese word for true fermented soy sauce. ‘Tamari’ describes naturally brewed soy sauce which does not contain wheat or other grain. In the supermarket look for organic Ceres brand, or plain only Kikkoman (their other varieties usually contain artificial additives including MSG: TIPS).
• Stock: use homemade meat, fish or vegetable stock (see The Shape Diet), or top quality purchased stock such as Essential Cuisine (in soft pouches in the supermarket chiller or meat section). Most supermarket stock has sugar, wheat and artificial additives (see website TIPS: MSG). Traditionally miso soup and many other Japanese dishes are made with dashi – a stock made from bonito fish (dried flakes can be purchased in Asian stores and some supermarkets).