Thursday, November 17, 2011

Spice Soup

Self-disclosure moment: I am a huge nerd.  Well, all of us at The Guv'nah are.  But I may have taken it to another level when I hunted down this recipe.  A few years back I was reading The Sword of Truth series by Terry Goodkind (basis for the TV series The Legend of the Seeker), and the characters were always eating a dish called spice soup.  It pops up often enough that I figured some fan somewhere came up with a recipe for it. And then I got lucky and found the recipe posted by Goodkind himself.  Apparently he got tired of rabid fans asking him for it.

Really?  You're asking for a soup recipe?  From this guy?

But it looked good so I gave it a try.  This is a great late fall/early winter recipe.  It's a hearty vegetable soup and great with whole-wheat bread.  It is super-filling and makes your whole house smell, as The Yellow One puts it, "Like awesome."

It is also a highly versatile dish and is inexpensive to make.  The recipe below is not the original (find it here) but one I've altered to my own tastes.  It's a great way to use up the odd vegetable that's been sitting at the back of the fridge.  You can make it so that it's just veggies in a thin broth by adding more water and only cooking the soup for the minimal two hours.  You can make it stew-like by letting it cook longer and adding minimal liquid as it evaporates.  However you make it, it is sure to become a winter-day staple in your house.

First, you will need to make the spice oil.  This will be used to saute some of the veggies.  I always make extra oil to add a little spice to other recipes with sauted veggies.

Spice Oil:
1/2 cup vegetable oil
4-6 crushed or diced dried red chili peppers
2 whole dried red chili pepper

There are several types of chili peppers to choose from, so pick one that suits your tastes.  Remember, the smaller the pepper, the hotter the taste.

In a small sauce pan, heat the vegetable oil on a medium heat.  Add all the peppers to the oil and simmer until the peppers are browned.  This will not take long; typically a few minutes.  Do not let the chilis burn.  Once browned, allow oil to cool slightly and strain out the chilis and seeds.  Set aside or store in an air-tight container.

Some of the peppers browned quicker than the others.  Should this happen, remove peppers before they blacken.

2 tablespoons spice oil (recipe above)
1 medium onion (any kind you prefer or what looks good at the market that week)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 small container of mushrooms (about a 1 ½ cups), quartered
3 carrots
4 stalks celery
5-6  small potatoes, peeled
2 cups chicken broth
¾ cup tomato or vegetable juice

2 teaspoons Herbs de Provence (optional)
2 tablespoons Parsley
2 tablespoons Sage
Pinch of Salt and pepper
4-5 Bay leaves

All vegetables that are not already bite sized should be cut into large, bite-sized chucks.  In a large pot or stock pot, sauté the onion, garlic, and mushrooms in the spice oil for about 5 minutes.  Add the remaining veggies and liquids and bring to a simmer for about 10 minutes.  Add enough water to cover veggies with about an inch of water.  Add seasonings and stir well.  Let simmer on the stove top for at least two hours.  Occasionally add water as it evaporates, eventually bringing the soup to your preferred consistency (anywhere from thin to stew-like thick).  I typically allow the soup to simmer for 5 hours; the longer the better.  

Simmering into tasty goodness.

Ready to eat!  Perfect with some homemade honey wheat bread.

Optional ProTips:

As stated in the intro, this is a very versatile recipe. You can use what vegetables you like or what’s in season. I altered the original recipe to eliminate ingredients I didn’t like and incorporated more of the ones I do like.  This also included the seasonings; there are several options for making this soup tasty for you.  Really, I don’t think you can go wrong with this soup; its fool proof.

But here are some suggestions to consider.

Lemon juice: it will lighten up the flavor of the soup ever so slightly. Try adding 1/4 cup about an hour into the simmering process.

Dry white wine: a half cup of this added in the last half hour of simmering will give the soup a whole new twist.  Many homemade chicken soups and broths call for a small amount of white wine.

Low sodium chicken stock/broth: While the chicken broth contributes significantly to the soups flavor and adds protein, it is also very high in sodium (763 mg per cup).  Those looking after their heart health should trying using low sodium broth (450 mg per cup) if you can find it, or eliminating the broth from your recipe.  Never use bouillon as it has a much greater sodium content.  I routinely use low sodium with always tasty results.

Beef broth or low sodium beef broth: A nice twist for the beef lover.  This will change flavor quite a bit, so consider changing your seasoning to more beef-friendly varieties.  Beef broth has approximately the same amount of sodium as chicken broth, so consider using a reduced sodium type.

Enjoy the wintery weather!

- The Pink One

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