A bit different for this blog post, but as a Holistic Counsellor, I am passionate about whole body (mind, body and spirit) healing and nurturing. Another passion of mine (and creative art form!) is culinary magic. I love cooking. It is a form of meditation for me. I am not a picky eater ( I even put parsnips in this soup and it is one veggie I do not like - but I eat some things for the benefits, not the flavour). Cooking allows you to get fully into the zen mode (ya'll know how much I love anything to do with zen therapy). I love following a recipe and treating my family to the delicious creations. This soup is my take on one of the best veggie soups I have ever tasted - I think I achieved a pretty close reproduction based on my tastebuds alone. This is a wholesome and nutrient dense soup - perfect for rainy days, flu's and cold's or if you are pressed for time, an easy weeknight meal (perfect to make a batch and freeze in portions). One thing I don't like about food blogs is how long they are until the actual ingredients, so I will keep this short and get to the good stuff.
Recipe Basics: To roast or not to roast? Totally up to you, if you roast your veggies, sheet-pan style, prior to throwing it in the pot, you will develop a sweeter caramelized flavour, however if you are pressed for time, you can skip this. My recommendation is to experiment and see what works for you.
It is made vegetarian, vegan and gluten free - but feel free to chuck in leftover roast lamb or turkey or chicken if that's your jam.
Vegetable Options for Vegetable Soup
This soup is versatile by design, so you can enjoy it in every season - you can use whatever veggies are in season or you have on-hand. We’ll use onion, carrots and celery as a base.
Some recommended seasonal vegetables to make this soup more hearty and interesting.
Choose from veggies you have on hand, or grab your favorites at the store. Any of these will work:
Sweet potatoes or regular potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
Butternut squash, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
Green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch long segments
Bell pepper (red or green sweet capsicum), chopped
Cauliflower, cut into very small bite-sized pieces
Zucchini or yellow squash, chopped
Fresh greens: Kale, collard greens, chard, or spinach
Dried Beans: you can easily increase the protein and fiber content with dried cannellini beans. I like to use organic dried and soak them for a few hours prior in filtered water. But you can use any beans you have on hand (chick peas, black bean, kidney bean, etc). If you are using canned beans, ensure you rinse them under cool water thoroughly until you see all bubbles removed from rinsing.
My personal favorite combination: Onion ( I love to use young red onion) / celery / carrot + red capsicum, butternut squash, yellow button squash, green zucchini, tomatoes, fresh parsley (as a garnish), dried beans, kale + some paleo bread to soak up the juices. YUM!
Steps for your soup masterpiece.
1) Start with the veggies.
We’ll sauté chopped onion, celery, carrots and seasonal vegetables of your choice in olive oil, with some salt. This softens them up and enhances their flavors. Adding salt during different stages of the cooking process builds more flavor than simply adding it all at the end.
2) Add fresh minced garlic, curry powder, and dried thyme + tomato paste.
Sautéing these ingredients for about 1 minute wakes up their flavors, but isn’t long enough to risk burning the garlic ( garlic burns easily)
Curry powder is the secret to making this soup so delicious. We aren’t adding much. You probably won’t be able to pinpoint the flavor, but it adds some subtle intrigue and warmth to this soup. I've used the common pre-mixed curry powder you can find in the shops, but feel free to make your own blend if you have a family favorite. Tomato paste cooked a little on a little area of the pot (push the veggies aside) allows it to slightly caramelize further, elevating the flavours even more.
3) Add canned diced tomatoes with their juices.
We’ll cook them all together for a couple of minutes to reduce any tinny flavors. I always recommend using a brand of tomatoes that are certified organic because they taste the best and come in BPA-free cans.
4) Add some vegetable broth, water, and more flavorings.
Vegetable broth keeps this soup vegetarian/vegan. We’ll also add bay leaves, red pepper flakes, and a little more salt. If you are sensitive to spice or making it for young kids, you can omit the red pepper flakes but I highly recommend even adding the tiniest pinch - it really elevates the flavour without adding a strong spicy heat component. If you love spice, you can always add more to taste when you serve your own bowl.
At this stage, allow to simmer for 25 minutes or until the beans are cooked (if you added dried beans that have been pre-soaked).
5) Add chopped fresh greens and finally, some fresh lemon juice.
Lastly, we’ll add chopped greens for health bonus points, and simmer for 5 minutes to soften them up. Before serving, we’ll brighten up the soup with a big squeeze of lemon juice or you can try balsamic vinegar for a deeper flavour, and add another splash of olive oil for rich flavor. Taste the soup before and after these additions, and you’ll notice a big difference! Finally, season to taste with salt and pepper, as necessary.
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 medium yellow or white or red onion, chopped
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
2 cups chopped seasonal vegetables, (see above recommendations)
1 teaspoon fine sea salt, divided, to taste
6 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
1 tbsp tomato paste
½ teaspoon curry powder
½ teaspoon dried thyme
1 large can (28 ounces) diced tomatoes
4 cups (32 ounces) vegetable broth
2 cups water
2 bay leaves
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes, reduce or omit if sensitive to spice
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 cups chopped kale or collard greens or chard (thick ribs removed), or spinach
1 tablespoon lemon juice or balsamic vinegar
Warm 3 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large Dutch oven or soup pot over medium heat. Once the oil is shimmering, add the chopped onion, carrot, celery, seasonal vegetables and ½ teaspoon of the salt. Cook, stirring often, until the onion has softened and is turning translucent, about 6 to 8 minutes.
Add the garlic, curry powder and thyme + tomato paste. Cook until fragrant while stirring frequently, about 1 minute. Pour in the diced tomatoes with their juices and cook for a few more minutes, stirring often.
Pour in the broth and water. Add ½ teaspoon more salt, 2 bay leaves and the red pepper flakes. Season generously with freshly ground black pepper. Raise the heat and bring the mixture to a boil, then partially cover the pot and reduce heat to maintain a gentle simmer.
Cook for 25 minutes or until the pre-soaked dried beans are cooked through, then remove the lid and add the chopped greens. Continue simmering for 5 minutes or more, until the greens have softened to your liking.
Remove the pot from heat and remove the bay leaves. Stir in the lemon juice and remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Taste and season with more salt, pepper and/or red pepper flakes, to taste.
My family loves to puree it with a stand mixer. Allow the soup to cool considerably before blending. Then add some parsley to garnish if you like, or try chopped basil. Blending it hides the 'chunks' of veggies for picky eaters. Enjoy!