Living in Perth, it’s difficult to complain about the Winter weather. For instance, on this July morning, the sun is streaming through the window from a perfectly blue sky, slightly streaked with cottony clouds. Yes, there’s a slight chill in the air, but all in all it’s akin to a Spring day, or even Summer in some parts of the Northern Hemisphere. We’re pretty darn blessed. And we know it.
But with this beautiful weather comes a low tolerance amongst local people for temperatures under 15 degrees C. That might not sound cold to some of you, but for Australians who have acclimatised to Summer days over 42 degrees C it’s almost freezing. This week, we’ve had several mornings under 5 degrees C which has resulted in mass complaints about icy windscreens, frozen fingers and inefficient fireplaces. It’s also driven some of us into ‘comfort food’ territory in an effort to self-medicate whilst warming the cockles of our hearts (if you’re wondering where that saying came from, find the answer here alongside speculation on other big exciting questions such as “why do men wear ties?”).
For me, the ultimate winter comfort food is a bowl of pumpkin soup with sour cream, plenty of pepper and a side of molten grilled cheese sandwiches. Liquid warmth, offset by the crunch of blackened grilled cheese and sighs of sweet content. However, this winter I decided to try something different, inspired by many of those tetra-packed vegetable soups you find in the supermarket these days. A winter vegetable soup, bulked up with protein-packed chickpeas and flavoured with Moroccan spices and a splash of fragrant lemon. As with most of my recipes, it’s open to interpretation – if you don’t like parsnips, leave them out and add in extra sweet potato, swedes, Ruby Lou potatoes or other root vegetables. If you like extra chilli, add more, or sprinkle on some smoked paprika for a beautiful finish. This recipe also works well with some crumbled Danish feta as topping, which offsets the crisp smoky chorizo and fragrant lemon oil.
Spiced Winter Vegetable Soup
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 3 asian shallots, roughly chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, crushed
- 2 coriander roots, washed thoroughly and finely chopped
- 2 tsp whole coriander seeds
- 2 tsp whole cumin seeds
- 1 tsp chilli flakes (or to taste)
- pinch of saffron
- 1 medium orange sweet potato (kumara, about 500g), peeled and diced
- 2 medium parsnips, peeled and diced
- 4 medium carrots, chopped (I leave the peel on)
- 250g washed & roughly chopped spinach leaves
- a handful of washed & chopped parsley leaves
- 3 cups (750 ml) vegetable stock
- 200g canned chickpeas, rinsed
- rind and juice from 1 lemon
- sea salt & black pepper, to taste
- lemon oil
Place your coriander and cumin seeds in a shallow frypan and lightly toast over medium heat until fragrant. Allow to cool slightly, then place in a mortar and pestle with the chilli flakes. Grind to a fine consistency.
Heat your oil in a large saucepan (>5 cup capacity) over medium heat. Add in your shallots, coriander roots and garlic then cook, stirring often, until translucent (do not allow to become brown). Add in your spices and cook for 1 minute, or until fragrant and well mixed with your oil, garlic, coriander and shallots. Add in the root vegetables. Cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes then add in your vegetable stock. Allow the mix to come to the boil, then cover, turning the stovetop heat down to low. Allow to simmer, stirring occasionally, for half an hour or until the root vegetables are soft and beginning to break down.
Add in your chickpeas, spinach and parsley. Stir well, then allow to simmer for 10 – 15 minutes. Remove from heat when the chickpeas are softened enough to press easily with a fork. Add in your lemon rind, and half of the lemon juice.
After the mix has cooled slightly, it’s time to blend it. I use a stick blender, which makes things simple, but if you have a benchtop blender I’d recommend leaving the soup til it reaches room temperature, then blending it in batches before tipping it back into your saucepan. Taste, and season with salt and pepper. Add in a little more lemon juice to taste or some water if the mixture has become too thick.
Return to the stove over medium heat until the mixture starts to simmer. Serve with chorizo crumbs (recipe below), a dollop of natural yoghurt (or some Danish feta, crumbled) and a drizzle of lemon oil (see recipe here).
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 chorizo sausage, finely chopped
- 1/4 cup toasted walnuts, crushed
- 1/4 cup fresh bread crumbs (made from day-old bread)
- sea salt and black pepper
- a handful of fresh parsley, chopped
Heat your olive oil over medium heat. Add in your chorizo sausage and cook for 1-2 minutes, or until it starts to slightly colour and the fat starts to dissolve. Add in your fresh bread crumbs, and cook, until the bread starts to colour and soak up the chorizo oil. Remove from heat and drain on some paper towel. Mix through your crushed walnuts and parsley, then season with salt and pepper. Serve, sprinkled over your hot soup with a dollop of natural yoghurt. I also like to toast some Turkish bread and serve it alongside, rubbed with crushed garlic and extra-virgin olive oil.
- Experiment with the content of your winter soups. Good vegetables for soups of thick consistency include pumpkin, sweet potato, regular potatoes, parsnips, cauliflower, carrots, broccoli, leeks (and all members of the onion family), spinach and corn. Just be aware that the more green vegetables you add, the more that your soup will resemble pond sludge. Delicious pond sludge, but greyish green nonetheless.
- Add in spices, ginger (powdered or fresh) and chilli (flakes, powder or fresh) for both warmth and metabolism-boosting goodness.
- Great toppings for soup include croutons, crisp cheese toasts, toasted pumpkin or sunflower seeds, crisp bacon or chorizo (or any type of sausage), sour cream, natural yoghurt, parmesan or any grated cheese (amazing with French onion soup) or flavoured oils.
- If you’re vegetarian, feel free to omit the chorizo from the crumb recipe and add in some extra nuts or lemon rind. It’ll still make a deliciously crunchy topping for your soup.
- I’ve added extra body and creaminess to this soup with canned chickpeas. Alternative ways to make your soup extra creamy are to add cream, coconut milk, a handful of rice, barley or quinoa (added in the early stages with the stock, so that it can adequately break down), or for more liquid soups you can use a quick beurre manié (knead equal parts of butter and flour into a thick paste, then whisk it into your soup in stages until it is completely dissolved).