Spiced adzuki bean & pumpkin soup

spiced adzuki bean and pumpkin soupThe weather has flipped. And just like that, it’s autumn in Melbourne. I don’t need to look at a calendar to tell me that. Unlike this harsh change of season, however, winter will quietly make its way into autumn, blending the two into one — it usually does. Winter is very sneaky like that.

Now is about the time Melburnians will start to adorn themselves with layers upon layers of black — and fill their bellies with warm, comfort food so they can be heated from the inside out. While a curry or a casserole will certainly do that, you can’t beat the simplicity of a hearty, nourishing soup — especially after a long hard day’s work.  

Soups: thank you for making my winters (and autumns) bearable — just!

Recipe

Ingredients

  • ½ cup adzuki beans, soaked overnight (or at least for 6 hours) and rinsed
  • 550 g pumpkin, when peeled, seeded & diced
  • 2 tbsp olive oil, and a little extra for roasting the pumpkin
  • 1 brown onion, finely chopped
  • 4 garlic gloves, crushed
  • 1 knob ginger (about the size on an Aussie 20c coin), finely grated
  • 1 large celery stick, finely diced
  • dried spices — 1 tsp turmeric powder, 2 tsp ground coriander seeds, pinch nutmeg powder
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 6 cups vegetable or chicken stock, preferably homemade
  • 2 bay leaves
  • sea salt, to taste
  • freshly squeezed lemon juice, to taste

Method

Preheat oven to 180C and line an oven tray with baking paper. Lightly coat diced pumpkin with olive oil and roast for 25–30 minutes until soft. Then remove from oven and set aside until needed.

While the pumpkin is roasting, you can start preparing the soup base. In a large, heavy-based pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat and sauté the onions and celery until the onions become translucent. Add the ginger and garlic, sautéing for a couple more minutes before adding in the spices. Keep stirring for another two minutes or so, then mix in the tomato paste. Let the tomato paste cook with the spices for a few minutes, then add in the adzuki beans and mix well.

To the next stage of the soup — pour in the stock together with the roast pumpkin and bay leaves. Bring to a boil then simmer over gentle heat for about 45 minutes or until the adzuki beans are cooked through.

Remove the bay leaves, and blend with a stick blender. Then season with sea salt and lemon juice, to your liking. Serve as is, or with some real yoghurt drizzled on top and some real bread.

Palak paneer with a few twists

palak-tofuPalak paneer is a traditional Indian dish made with spinach and a fresh cheese (paneer). But in preparation for the 30 day easy vegan challenge in November (I registered yesterday!), you’ll see mostly vegan (and gluten-free) recipes here over the next couple of months.

The ‘veganisation’ of this dish was inspired by the recent vegan cooking and yoga retreat I went to with my mum. At the retreat we made saag with wild mustard weeds, lotus seeds, cauliflower florets and coconut cream. Yes, you read right: weeds. Alexis, the retreat’s very knowledgeable vegan and wholefoods chef, is quite the weeds connoisseur. By the way, that was one interesting (and yummy) dish!

While the recipe here is really my own, the saag did prompt its creation. And no, there are no weeds.

Recipe

Serves 3–4

Don’t be scared off by all the prepping work. It’s actually not that bad!

Ingredients

  • 250 g organic tofu
  • 1 large bunch spinach, washed & roughly chopped
  • 1 cup (250 mL) coconut milk
  • 1 tsp stock concentrate
  • tamarind pulp or use juice of half a lemon
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 brown onion, peeled, halved & thinly sliced
  • small knob ginger (~10 g), grated with skin and all
  • 1 red chilli, finely chopped
  • 2–4 cloves garlic, peeled & very finely chopped
  • 2 tsp black mustard seeds, roughly ground
  • 2 tsp freshly ground coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp freshly ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp ground fenugreek seeds (methi)
  • 1/4 small pumpkin (~250 g), peeled & chopped into small cubes
  • sea salt, to taste

Prepping

Tofu prep

Chop 250 g organic tofu into 1.5 cm cubes.

In a frypan heat some coconut oil. The amount should be enough to cover the bottom of your frypan. Once heated, fry the tofu cubes in batches until lightly browned (you will have to flip the cubes around to get an even browning). Tip fried tofu onto a plate lined with a paper towel and set aside. (Alternatively, you can use the cubes without frying them.)

Spinach prep

In a pot, cook the spinach with 1 cup coconut milk, 1/2 cup water (or just use another 1/2 cup of coconut milk) and 1 tsp stock concentrate, until the spinach has wilted. Then blend into a puree using a hand blender. Or you can puree in a bench-top blender. The spinach mixture will be vibrant green. Set aside until needed.

Tamarind prep (optional)

Take some tamarind pulp (about the size of an Aussie 10 cent coin) and soak in 2 tbsp hot water. Once cooled squeeze the pulp with your hands to remove as much of the flesh as possible, then discard any seeds and remaining fibre. What you’re left with is thick ‘tamarind juice’. Set aside until needed.

Cooking

Heat olive oil in a large, heavy-based pot and add onions, ginger and chilli. Saute for a few minutes then add the garlic. Once the onions are translucent, add the crushed mustard seeds. Continue to saute for a couple of minutes before adding the remaining spices: coriander, cumin, fenugreek and turmeric. You will need to stir continually so the spices don’t burn. Add a little more olive oil, if you find that the spices are catching.

Next, plop in the chopped pumpkin, stirring thoroughly to coat it with all the spicy goodness. Turn down the heat, and place the lid on. You will need to stir regularly, though. Just to make sure nothing sticks to the bottom of the pot. I find making a little well in the middle and adding a couple of tablespoons of boiled water helps – once the water evaporates, I give the pumpkin a good stir.

Once the pumpkin is cooked (soft, but still keeps its shape), add in the spinach puree, tofu and tamarind juice if using. (If you’re using lemon juice, hold it off until the end of the cooking process). Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the spinach darkens in colour, and thickens in consistency. If using lemon juice, add it now, and season with salt.

Enjoy with carbohydrate of choice – I had mine with brown rice.