Here's one of the many things making me happy lately: Soup. I bought my first slow-cooker with my Christmas bonus money (yeah, we don't get huge bonuses, but we get them in Amazon credit, so it's fun to figure out what exactly to spend it on) and I've spent the last month making huge amounts of soup. The freezer currently contains four different kinds of homemade frozen soup, and I've dispensed soup to four different couples at this point, plus served stew at a dinner party.
This is one of my favorite soup recipes. I have no idea where it's from; searching for the text online, the only place I found that used this wording was a message-board forum, which is definitely not where I got it. But at any rate:
West African Peanut Chicken Stew recipe
1 tablespoon olive oil 1 roasting chicken, about 3 lbs, boned and cut into bite-size pieces 1 onion, sliced into wedges 2 large potatoes, cubed 4 cloves garlic, chopped 2 teaspoons ground cumin 2 teaspoons ground coriander seed 1 teaspoon tumeric 1 teaspoon ground black pepper 1 teaspoon crushed red-pepper flakes 1 teaspoon salt 4 cups chicken stock 1/2 cup unsalted, natural peanut butter 1-3 cups fresh kale, depending on your taste for it
Heat the stock to a slow, rolling boil in a large pot, then reduce heat and simmer. In a separate pan, brown the chicken in oil, then remove it from a pan with a slotted spoon and add it to the stock. Turn the heat on the pan down to medium low and add the garlic, potato, and onion. Sauté in the chicken juices and remaining oil for a few minutes, until the outer edges of the potato start turning transparent. Season with coriander, black pepper, cumin, tumeric, salt, and red pepper, and stir. Do not let the garlic brown. Add all contents of the pan, juices included, to the pot.
Put a lid on the pan and simmer 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the peanut butter and simmer until the potatoes are tender. Stir to infuse the peanut butter through the broth. The longer it simmers, the better, but it's ready to serve at this point.
This is how I do the recipe; it makes a very thick stew. If you like a more brothy soup, I recommend at this stage adding warm water half a cup at a time until it reaches the desired consistency. I often let it simmer more like an hour, and then add water at the end. This is also good for stretching the soup if you have a lot of guests to feed, and I always add water when I reheat a bowl, because it gets thick to the point of solidity once it cools.
I also like my kale very crunchy and prefer for it to add consistency to the soup, so I add it in about 10 minutes before serving, just long enough for it to heat and soften. But if you prefer softer kale, you can add it at any point after the peanut butter has softened and been stirred in.
You can just leave it to simmer without stirring it, but the peanut butter tends to make a nasty-looking foam on top of the soup. Just stir it in before serving, it breaks up fine.
Also, if it's too spicy, it can be cut with plain tomato sauce, which gentles the spice down and gives it a richer texture and flavor. Alternately, you can kick up the spice and THEN add the tomato sauce, and get the richer texture PLUS heat.
This can be served as is, but if you want to get fancy, a little fresh cilantro and/or diced green onions and/or crushed unsalted peanuts on top all go well with the recipe and can be used to make it fancier for guests.
So that's the basic recipe as I've been serving it. But a couple of weeks ago, I went over to insidian's and she'd made a soup inspired by it, using canned pumpkin as a starch instead of potatoes, and adding black beans. And it was like someone turned a light on in my head, or at least my soup pot. I tried it again the next day, omitting the chicken and instead using a can of rinsed black beans, a zucchini, a squash, and a couple of stalks of celery. (The latter two, I diced with the rind on, sauteed for a few minutes, and then added just after the potato. The beans, I just tossed in at the same time. And then I let it all hang out and make friends, as magdalene1 sometimes says, in the slow cooker for six hours on low. I sliced the celery and tossed it in half an hour before eating it, so it kept some crunch.)
I normally don't like squash or zucchini in anything, and I generally don't like beans. But they all worked fine in the soup, just giving it more texture and more richness. I realized as I was eating it that I could have made it with mushroom or veggie stock and it would have been vegan, and possibly the only vegan thing I've ever really, really loved eating. Also, next time it definitely wants mushrooms. And corn.
Basically, I realized this recipe can be used to make soup I will like out of any vegetables, no matter how infernally healthy. Thanks, insidian! I feel like I have been handed the Philosopher's Stone: Add these spices and do a hell of a lot of dicing, and you can turn anything into magical soup.
Providing you like cumin, coriander, tumeric, and peanut butter, of course. If not, I'm afraid you're on your own. At least until I throw all my other soup recipes at Sid.
The PB is important for thickening and binding the soup, I think — I've never tried it without — but I'm betting almond butter or cashew butter or probably best of all, sunflower butter would work. And I think Sid's version dropped it entirely in favor of the pumpkin. Parsnips would work fine, or turnips, or even just dropping them altogether if you're using as many other veggies as my later versions.
The sweet potatoes are also fibrous enough to provide some thickening, as are the black beans if they are cooked just right, so one could skip the PB -- or have a side bowl with ground peanuts for those not allergic to sprinkle on.
Another one into which you can sneak an array of veggies: Pizza Soup (http://crockpot365.blogspot.com/2008/08/crockpot-pizza-soup-recipe.html). I haven't tried making a veggie-only version, but I'd imagine it could work. I have tried different fancy sausages in there, as well as zucchini in place lof the green peppers, and yum.Itfreezes pretty well, too.
Huh! I automatically rebel against the idea of "pizza soup" as possibly being more "fun" than "delicious" (like Spaghetti Hot Dog Aliens) but that recipe does sound intriguing and as flexible as pizza itself. Perhaps once I get back to planning stuff again, I'll try it for a dinner party. Thanks!
The first time I made it, more or less by the recipe, I was astounded that it tasted exactly like pizza. The pasta even fills in the crust/starch flavor somewhat. It was really a little bit bizarre to have my brain going "mmm, pizza!" with a mouthful of soup.
You flatter me, dahlink! I'm so glad the experiments are working for you!
I've got a thai curry base that might work for experimentation as well:
Sautee garlic and onion Add thai curry paste (curry, lemongrass, lime leaves, tamarind, but again I am lazy and just buy it premixed) Add coconut milk Add stock to desired thickness (or none at all if you want a stew)
I generally throw in chicken and potatoes and call it a day, simmer for 20 minutes and call it soup, but hey! It's an EXPERIMENT. Perhaps I will make this tomorrow; it's been a while!
Oh yeah, that is the second of my Three Basic Soups. I alternate between the red and the green pre-mixed curry sludge. I normally make it with chicken, bamboo shoots, and green beans (added last, not long before serving). Most recently, I made it with peapods instead.
This is one of my favorite lazy recipes because you don't need to pre-cook the chicken: According to the recipe I first used, you poach it in the soup, so it comes out very tender, and you can skip the extra chicken-on-the-stove step.
The red curry sludge with onion, coconut milk, red bell pepper, pumpkin & tofu (if you like tofu) is my favorite comfort food ever! Canned pumpkin pureed into the soup base, and then cube a roast pumpkin (or squash) into it after it's had time to cook down a bit. If I have time, I'll use roast squash for the base as well, instead of canned, but there's not always time for that.