Sometimes one ends up making something that is so dreamy, so utterly tasty that you end up speaking aloud to yourself. That’s what this cauliflower soup did to me. As I finished up blending it all I could do was mutter “so good” over and over, rolling my eyes and ‘testing’ far more than was needed, because wow. I guess you’re scoffing, thinking, pah! Soup! Well, yes. Soup. Glorious, creamy, rich and oh.so.good.
My dad sent me an article during the week entitled “if it’s vegan, why hide it between the buns?“. I think it’s terribly sweet that he’s actually reading these sorts of articles, even though he’s not very pro-vegan. It’s main gist is looking at why vegans, and especially vegan restaurants, attempt to recreate dishes based on the structure, texture, or look of meat products, and then go so far as to name them as “chicken” this or “pork” that. I know it’s mostly about the naming of vegan dishes and their presentation/representation, but the article got me thinking down a slightly meandering path.
I must admit that over the past year I’ve become less inclined to rely on faux meat products as I did at the beginning of my transition from vegetarianism to veganism, but that’s because I was wholly ignorant of the absolute range of protein sources and their manifestations. Sure beans, whatever, but the myriad of ways one can use it? In cookies, cakes and burger patties? Or tofu, also the star of many a sweet treat and savoury delight alike? Nom!
These days I’d rather make myself a lentil stew or hummus rather than pop a vegan sausage in the microwave or a “chick’n” schnitzel in the oven. It’s not just because the idea of replicating textures and using the flesh names I find to be chilling and rather macabre, but mainly because these items are usually so processed that there seems little point in espousing healthy eating and then munching on the equivalent of junk food for protein sustenance. Not that there’s anything wrong with the once-in-a-blue-moon burger patty when out in social situations where one is bereft of options. My in-laws are so utterly sweet and even keep an entire drawer in their freezer dedicated to Fry’s vegetarian/vegan goods for me to eat during barbeques, and I know my dad and co also sometimes keep some vegan patties in their freezer. In those circumstances I just feel so blessed to be included and considered that I will happily munch on whatever’s around, whether it says chicken or what on the package or not.
During my normal doings, however, there really is nothing better than eating whole foods. You can see and taste the source and know that you have absolute control over all the extras. Seriously, reading some of the packaging of these things makes one queasy because it’s all codes and ridiculous add-ons, when in fact a burger can be made with just five ingredients or less, and a dal…well, c’mon. I guess it ultimately boils down to what one hopes to accomplish. I know now that one can make delicious cauliflower nuggets instead of chicken nuggets, or portobello steaks instead of their animal counterparts, and how great is that? Home-made, unrefined, and very wholesome!
I don’t think there’s anything wrong with trying to use the idea of something in vegan cooking and baking, because a burger betwixt a delicious seeded bun is a flippin great plan, and so too is a chunky stew made with soy nuggets or some such. It becomes a bit dodgy when one tries to sell it as a meat-counterpart in all cases, however. Vegan steak n kidney pie? Blergh! Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t Still, I don’t think anyone should get their aprons in a twist. As long as food in restaurants is ethical, delicious and made with as many (if not completely) whole food products as possible, I don’t really care what they name it.
I’ve also seen absolutely magical dishes such as vegan eggs (seriously, it looks just like a fried egg) or “chicken mayo” sandwiches, and in those circumstances I understand why they use the “non-vegan” terms, because sometimes replicating a dish or translating it into its vegan version means you can’t pretend it isn’t inspired by or based on an animal-product dish. Former omnis especially have a hard time of it, as do I, in separating what you want to make from food memories. You simply want to eat a certain dish which produces certain feelings, just without cruelty. Spaghetti and nomballs may not make much sense, so if a restaurant is willing to make some delicious variant out of lentils or what not, then I won’t begrudge them the name “meatballs”, because I won’t begrudge myself the opportunity to eat out vegan!
When it comes to eating out, soup was never something that interested me in restaurants, because c’mon. As an omni I wanted substance – the bigger, thicker, and denser the better. I didn’t faff around with light, delicate salads or subtle shades of sandwich. It would explain why my appearance became rather more than meaty. As a vegetarian I also cared little for it, because there was still cheesy pizza or stuffed tramezzini to be had. Now, as vegan, the thought of a warm, hearty soup and some freshly made bread just makes me drool to the high heavens, except I’m a bit squeamish about choosing soup because I’m never sure what type of stock is used and whether any dairy found into my bowl or bread. With that in mind, as well as Man-thing’s impending bout of yearly illness, I decided to try out a creamy soup of my own, since I planned on making a healthy veg-banana bread anyhow (see tomorrow’s post!).
I scouted around online, and the simplest and most effective recipe I could find was this creamy cauliflower soup from Healthy Blender Recipes, which seems to be a standard and delicious soup that I’ve spotted in similar forms here and there. I added some extras for depth and also because my cauliflower was a bit on the small side, but I’m sure almost anything can be added to the soup, such as carrots, cabbage, or even some corn.
- 1 medium head of cauliflower, chopped into smallish pieces
- 1.5 cups steamed pumpkin, measured before mashing
- 2 cups sliced zucchini/baby marrow
- 1 small white onion, diced
- 1 tsp grated fresh ginger
- 6-7 cups stock (I used 2 cubes green onion veg stock & hot water)
- 1/4 cup cashews, soaked for at least 3 hours in hot water
- 1 tsp curry powder
- smoked paprika
- On medium heat, water sauté your onion and ginger with the curry powder and ginger spice in a large pot – mix it up and fry until soft and translucent.
- Add the cauliflower and zucchini to the pot and fry them for a few minutes, making sure they get coated in the curry powder mix.
- Add the stock and bring to the boil, then simmer for half an hour. Be sure to stir at 15 minutes, squashing the cauliflower where possible against the side of the pot.
- In the last 5 minutes add the steamed pumpkin, stirring well.
- Take the pot off the stove and add the cashews (without their soaking water), stirring again and letting it cool.
- Once the mixture is cool, add it in batches to your blender and mix till smooth.
- Bring back to the pot (if you plan on eating immediately, or else just transfer it to your tupperware. Bring it back to a low simmer to heat it back up again, adding spices to taste – I used quite a hefty portion of smoked paprika & cayenne, because I *love* spicy, creamy soup.
- Top with beetroot chips, some nuts, and perhaps a teaspoon of agave or balsamic vinegar, depending on what floats your boat.
- 1 TBSP olive oil
- 2 beetroot, peeled and halved
- thyme, paprika
- (optional) 1 tsp agave syrup
- Preheat to 180C and line a baking tray. I suggest planning on baking something else to make the energy expenditure worth it! (I made bread and crustless pumpkin-beetroot pie)
- Peel and half your beetroot (up to you as to how many! I used two medium beet and got 1/2 cup of thin, curly chips).
- Using a cheese slicer or potato peeler, slice thin, round portions of beetroot.
- In a small cup mix the olive oil and spices (along with the agave if desired)
- lay the chips flat on the baking tray and use your kitchen painter brush to thinly paint on the olive oil (mixture). Dash some more thyme or other spices on if necessary.
- Bake for 5-10 minutes, turning once.
- Turn off the heat and remove the chips, keeping a towel wedged in the oven door to let out some of the heat. After 15 or so minutes put back the chips and let them sit there (with the towel still wedged in to let in air) for half an hour to dehydrate them further. They’ll shrink and curl up slightly, and become more crunchy. This is nom.
Tra la la! Anyway, found myself spying on Gatsby-cat through the window as I was taking some snaps – snacking on some bamboo it seems! And then he goes and drinks dirty potted plant water, so I just know he’s going to throw up everywhere later on. Ugh. Still, little puff! ❤