14 April 2013

Martin's Soup

On a recent* trip to Portland to visit with some friends, we stopped by Martin's house for some dinner. Martin is a lanky barefoot support system for an impish grin and is frequently draped in a serape. If you've any connection with Free Geek in PDX, chances are you know him. What I didn't know, after close to 10 years of his acquaintance, is that he's a fine cook.

Martin had prepared an enormous pot of vegan soup that filled the kitchen with the rich smell of spices. I'll be honest, when I saw the soup contained cauliflower**, I took the first bowl simply because I was hungry and wanted to be polite. I devoured the second bowl because it was so delicious. The third bowl I savored, attempting to work out the ingredients. I asked Martin for the recipe, and he eventually provided one in the kind of short hand used by those of us how cook often, and improvise regularly.

In an effort to share this wonderful soup with a wider audience I've taken the liberty of filling in some details and adding some measurements for those of my readers who are more comfortable with recipes that are more procedural. Feel free to embellish and experiment with the ingredients, I think it would very much be in the spirit of what Martin has created. Personally, I think the addition of Portuguese Sausage would be very nice, but then it wouldn't be Vegan, and it might be less in the spirit of Martin's work.

  • 3 potatoes
  • half a head of cauliflower
  • 2 carrots
  • 3 celery stalks
  • 1 onion
  • 6 cloves of garlic
  • 2 cups of wine
  • 4 Tblspn of olive oil
  • .33 cup of nutritional yeast
  • 1 tablespoon of curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon of cumin
  • 1 can of diced tomato
  • 2 cups of yellow split peas
  • Water (or stock) to level of desired soup

Chop up your celery, carrots and onions into a small dice. Congratulations, you just made Mirepoix. Now you're cooking like a fancy French lad.
 In a large stock pot, heat up your fat of choice. If you're going Vegan, use olive oil. If you're not Vegan, feel free to use butter or bacon fat. Whichever you choose, don't skimp, this recipe will soak up a lot of fat, and that's good. When the fat is good and ready, drop in the Mirepoix and saute for several minutes, until the vegetables are soft and translucent. Add the garlic and some salt and pepper to season. The longer you saute and caramelize these vegetables, the richer your soup will end up. Careful not to cook them too long though, or it will burn.

Saute in lipid of choice
 While the Mirepoix is doing it's thing, chop up your cauliflower into a large rough dice. Make sure to pour all your hate and disgust for this pale imitator of broccoli into your chopping. Cauliflower is terrible and deserves your violence. It's okay, we'll make it taste better later.

Cauliflower; after dismemberment
Dice up your potatoes into a medium dice. Treat the potatoes with the love and attention they deserve that cauliflower never gets and doesn't deserve.

White on white bowl. Not a great color mix.
 Rinse the yellow split peas and pick them over for any small stones, bad peas, or hidden treasure. If you can't find yellow split peas, use red ones or green ones. The flavor will be mostly the same, but the color will be different. Don't use lentils. Lentils cook a little differently.

Split peas
Check on your Mirepoix. Is it coming along nicely? Yes. Yes it is.

Here's where we start to really develop the flavor of this soup. Wine. Delicious yummy wine. Notice that I've spared no expense and chosen a wine in a box. The kind of wine you use is somewhat immaterial. You'll want a white wine for this soup, preferably something dry. I've selected the Chardonnay carton. You wouldn't want to use a wine you wouldn't drink, but it doesn't have to be a very good wine, as we'll be evaporating most of it off.

The Bandit. A juice box for adults. It doesn't come with a straw.
Pour the wine in and let it cook down significantly, by half or more. You want a nice rich syrup in the pot. You can see here what's left of reducing 2 cups of wine. This is good.

Reducing the wine. I dare you to not huff the fumes.
Now we introduce some seasoning and add more flavor. Toss in the Nutritional Yeast, Curry Powder, and Cumin and toast them in the pot for a minute or so. Be careful, the Nutritional Yeast will absorb all the remaining liquid and it burns quickly. Nutritional Yeast adds a tasty nutty flavor, it can be found in your natural market, or likely in your regular grocery wherever they hide the vegetarian or natural ingredients.

Our spices and additions
 Once the spices are toasted, stir in the split peas and then add water and or stock. You can really add as much or as little as you want here. This soup will stretch quite a bit, and it's all about how many people you're feeding and how much storage space you have in the fridge. Remember though, we still have more veggies to add, and the peas will expand. Don't worry, it's okay to add more later. If you're preparing this Vegan, either use all water, or mix in some vegetable stock. If you're not Vegan/Vegetarian, then chicken stock will work as well. When I use stock and water, I like to use a ratio of 1:1.

There are no more pictures. Sorry. I drank the rest of that box of wine and forgot to take more. Fortunately, this part is dead easy, and doesn't really need pictures.

Bring the peas to a boil, and reduce to a simmer. Cook until the peas are just done. How long this takes all depends on the peas. If the peas are old, it will take longer. Figure about 45 minutes to an hour on simmer.

Once the peas are satisfactory, add in the cauliflower, potatoes and tomatoes, return to a simmer and cook until the potatoes are tender but not falling apart. Add more liquid if necessary. Taste before you serve and add more salt or curry powder to taste.

Congratulations. You just made a pot of soup that could serve a squadron of teenagers, is packed with nutrition, very possibly is Vegan depending on your additions and choices, and it probably cost less than $10 to make.

*Last October, not really very recent.
**I am not a friend of cauliflower.