Living on soup: Black bean soup

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So a few weeks ago I decided to make spicy black bean soup, and I went way overboard on the spice because I made something that was inedible. I made it edible, eventually, watering it down with water, broth and coconut milk, but it was still so incredibly spicy that I was eating less of it at a time than I normally would as a serving, meaning that it lasted far longer than it should have.

Now, wanting a more palate-friendly version of the soup, I tried again, shying away from the several teaspoons of chili powder the original recipe called for, and I am happy to say this was perfect and has kept me in delicious soup for days.

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 diced red onion (any kind of onion you like will do, though)
1 or 2 diced carrots, depending on how much you like carrot
2 cloves crushed garlic
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon turmeric
4 cups vegetable stock
2-3 containers of black beans (drained)
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 container (about 15 ounces/425g or so) stewed tomatoes

Heat oil, cook onion and carrot on medium heat for five to ten minutes, add garlic, cook for another minute. Keep stirring. Add spices (except black pepper). Stir and cook for about a minute. Add vegetable stock and 2 containers of black beans and the pepper. Bring to a boil.

Meanwhile, blend the tomatoes and other container of beans together in a blender and add to the pot. You could experiment here and add more beans to the blend (for a thicker soup). Stir while cooking for about another ten minutes.

You can also experiment with what you throw into the soup. If you like red or green bell peppers, chop some up and throw them in at the beginning with the onions and carrots. If you like spice, you could always chop up and throw in some jalapeno. Maybe you like corn – “liberate” some corn from the cob or throw in a drained can of corn. It’s up to you. Similarly, at the end, if you like a creamier soup, you could also add some coconut milk or cream/milk as well.

It was great when newly made but the leftovers the next days were REALLY good because the flavors had a chance to develop and the base of the soup got a bit thicker.

Vegan cream of asparagus soup

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What person doesn’t sit awake through an entire Friday night working, and relenting to a growing craving for cream of asparagus soup around 6 a.m.? Maybe it’s not the aspiration or habit of millions, but I’m working, blasting music, watching rain fall and waiting for my asparagus spears and onions to roast to perfection to make a vegan cream of asparagus soup for a transposed dinner-breakfast.

I go through soup kicks about once a year, and generally I don’t follow a set recipe. I just guess what I might like to taste. Last time I made some variation of asparagus soup, it was a green curry and coconut-based soup, but this time I was not really in the mood for curry (apart from shaking a tiny dot of curry powder into the garlic-laced vegetable broth).

Almost all my soups end up being vegan, too. I am not big on making meat soups or traditional kinds of bone broth. I barely know how to cook meat, let alone what to do with bones afterwards. I’ve become pretty good at roasting a chicken and then making chicken soup with what’s left, but that’s really only if I feel a physical need for it (i.e., I or someone else near me is sick). Roasted veg pureed with coconut milk is the best possible soup outcome I can imagine.

Today’s asparagus soup was made more or less as follows:

  • 25-30 asparagus spears, washed and cut into smaller pieces and thrown into a roasting pan with some olive oil
  • 3 red onions – two chopped up and thrown into the pan with the asparagus; 1 to saute in the pot on the stove with garlic
  • 3-4 garlic cloves, crushed
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 can coconut milk

Roast the asparagus pieces with 2 chopped onions. While roasting prepare the vegetable broth base.

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Saute the one remaining onion for about ten minutes in some olive oil on medium heat, throw in the garlic and stir constantly for about one minute. Pour in the two cups of broth, let simmer.

When the asparagus is ready, transfer it to the pot, stir, let simmer a few minutes. Use an immersion blender and blend until smooth.

Roasted tomato & garlic soup

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With a whole lot of tomatoes and garlic on my hands, and a persistent hankering for soup, I decided to wing it and make a roasted tomato with roasted garlic soup.

Here’s about how I did it:

12-15 medium Roma tomatoes (tops sliced off; tomatoes halved widthwise)
1 full head of garlic (top sliced off)
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon basil (I would skip this if you have fresh basil you can use later; I did not have any on hand)
1 large red onion, diced
1 cup vegetable stock

Preheat oven to 200C. Place the cut tomatoes in a pan lined with baking paper or foil, drizzle tomatoes with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and the herbs. Roast about 35 minutes (or until the skins easily peel away). You can also de-seed the tomatoes when done, if desired. I did not bother.

At the same time, drizzle olive oil over your head of garlic, wrap in foil and also roast for 35 minutes.

Remove the tomato skins (and seeds if desired) and set the roasted goods aside.

In a medium pan, saute your diced onion in a tablespoon of olive oil (I did this, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes). Add the tomatoes and garlic, stir and then add the vegetable stock – here you can decide how much liquid you need. You might not want the full cup. Bring to boil, simmer for a while. When ready, blend.

To serve, I added a tiny splash of coconut milk and a dot of pesto to the top (lacking fresh basil as I was).

And it was delicious!

Chicken Soup

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Something like hopping on a plane and almost immediately succumbing to excruciating stomach cramps and then classic and miserable flu symptoms is about the least fun I can think of. This unfortunate fate happened to Mr Firewall, and I have been trying everything in my amateur first-aid repertoire to help him get well and make him comfortable.

One bit was my first attempt to make standard chicken soup. I am not sure how I got to this stage in my life without ever having made basic chicken soup – it just never seemed like a priority. Not to add that it’s not really my favorite soup, and I rarely have chicken on hand. I didn’t even have a whole chicken – only boneless chicken breast, which is far from ideal for this kind of thing. This time, though, it seemed that when Mr Firewall felt like eating again, chicken soup would be just the right thing.

How did I do it?

Quickly sear both sides of two large chicken breasts in about a tablespoon of olive oil in a large Dutch oven or large, heavy-bottomed pot. Remove chicken and set aside. Now you can either chop it into a few chunks to cook in the soup or cook thoroughly in another pot of boiling water to make it easy to shred.

I chopped up one red onion, one large shallot, one (cleaned) leek, two stalks of celery and two carrots and sauteed these in the pan in which I seared the chicken. Saute for about five minutes, stirring a couple of times during the process. At the very end, throw in about four thinly sliced cloves of garlic.

Add two cups of boiling water. In a separate glass, mix a half cup to one cup of boiling water with two chicken or vegetable bouillon cubes and about 1/8 teaspoon of cayenne pepper – mix that into the sauteed veg mixture and let all simmer. Add the chicken now as well. Simmer for about 10 minutes. (If you are or have been cooking and shredding the chicken separately you can wait to add that until the last few minutes.)

After simmering, I threw the chicken in as well as about a quarter of a head of cabbage chopped into thin pieces as well as a handful of baby spinach, also roughly chopped. I also threw in two more cloves of thinly sliced garlic Рand voilà Рit turned out pretty well.

And everyone is feeling much better, thanks.