A year to lead by ex­am­ple

Ve­gan food has earned its place in our kitchens thanks to knock-out recipes that pack a punch. Here are four soups that, by virtue of their flavour, will get you think­ing about how you eat

The Guardian - Cook - - The Modern Cook - Anna Jones

he word ve­gan is no longer the do­main of ac­tivists, hard­core fans and the hemp trouser brigade

Ashiny new year brings prom­ise. It’s a time for tak­ing stock (lit­er­ally in the case of this week’s recipes) and mak­ing sure we can be proud of how we are liv­ing. For many that will mean try­ing to live a lit­tle more con­sciously, and cen­tral to that are our de­ci­sions about food.

The day I started writ­ing my first cook­book I de­cided that the way to en­cour­age peo­ple to put more veg­eta­bles cen­tre stage was to make down­right de­li­cious food – to let the food do the talking. Preach­ing and rhetoric weren’t my thing, and I felt they were also a big part of why some peo­ple made neg­a­tive judge­ments about ve­gan and veg­e­tar­ian food.

The word ve­gan is no longer the do­main of ac­tivists, hard­core fans and the hemp trouser brigade. For my brother, who has been ve­gan for 10 years, this new wave is, in short, amaz­ing. For eight of those years there were only a hand­ful of places in Lon­don where he could eat any­thing off the menu – that has now rad­i­cally shifted. Even friends who wore their love of meat as a badge of hon­our have been per­suaded that be­ing ve­gan might not be so dour af­ter all.

Some say that all this is just the lat­est food fad, but I be­lieve this way of eat­ing is go­ing stay. The nor­mal­i­sa­tion of ve­g­an­ism will only en­cour­age more peo­ple to be wiser about the big business of food. And while I am sure many of us won’t make the full leap to ve­g­an­ism, it will make us ques­tion and ree­val­u­ate our choices.

Most of the food I cook nat­u­rally tends to be ve­gan. This week, with all its res­o­lu­tions, is a peak op­por­tu­nity to change how we eat. In that spirit, here are four ve­gan soups that, by virtue of their flavours, will I hope spark a di­a­logue. A spritely lemon­grass and peanut soup, so hearty some might con­sider it a stew, bright with aro­mat­ics and chilli. And “couldn’t be sim­pler” miso broth, that fu­elled most of my 20s – it’s made from five in­gre­di­ents and can be thrown to­gether in 10 min­utes. My “not-chicken soup” – a soul-sooth­ing num­ber to ban­ish Jan­uary blues, and – one of my most­made soups – a lime leaf-in­fused co­conut broth, fra­grant and in­tensely creamy with the savouri­ness of buck­wheat noo­dles.

Kind food that tastes great for a brave new year.

1 Lemon­grass and peanut broth Serves 4

2 red chill­ies or 2 tbsp chilli paste 3 gar­lic cloves, peeled and finely sliced 2 shal­lots, peeled and finely sliced A thumb of gin­ger, peeled and grated 1 tsp ground co­rian­der

1 stalk lemon­grass

A pinch of salt

1 tbsp of co­conut or ground­nut oil 400ml tin co­conut milk

150g un­salted peanuts

2 car­rots, thinly sliced

200g green beans, trimmed and cut into 5cm lengths

200g firm tofu or tem­peh: 2cm pieces 2 large hand­fuls spinach, shred­ded

1 Blitz the chill­ies, gar­lic, shal­lots, gin­ger, co­rian­der and lemon­grass and a pinch of salt into a rough paste.

2 Swirl the oil in a heavy-based pot and set over medium heat un­til shim­mer­ing hot. Fry the spice paste un­til it dark­ens and is aro­matic – about 2-4 min­utes.

3 Stir in the co­conut milk and 400ml wa­ter. Add the peanuts and car­rots, then bring to a boil. Add more wa­ter to cover the veg­eta­bles, if nec­es­sary. Re­duce the heat, cover and sim­mer un­til the veg­eta­bles are al­most cooked through – about 5 min­utes. Next, add the green beans and tofu, and cook for an­other 2-3 min­utes.

4 Un­cover, and stir in the spinach and a good pinch of salt. Taste and ad­just sea­son­ing as needed. If pos­si­ble, let the soup sit for 1-2 hours for the flavours to meld.

2 Miso broth Serves 4

½ tbsp co­conut oil A bunch of spring onions A small thumb of gin­ger, peeled, grated 2 litres boil­ing wa­ter 2 nests of noo­dles (I use ver­mi­celli brown rice noo­dles) 1 head of leafy greens (I use choi sum or pak choi), shred­ded 1 tbsp chilli miso paste

1 Heat the co­conut oil in a saucepan, add the spring onions, then cook for 2 min­utes. Add the gin­ger and stock, bring to the boil, then keep warm. 2 Cook the noo­dles. Drain and di­vide be­tween four bowls.

3 Add the greens to the broth. Add 2 tbsp of the hot broth to the miso paste and mix well, then pour this back into the pot. Pour the broth over the noo­dles and serve im­me­di­ately.

3 Green pep­per­corn and lemon­grass co­conut broth

To serve four: Boil the ket­tle. Melt 4 tbsp co­conut oil over a low flame. Blitz a thumb of gin­ger, 2 peeled gar­lic cloves and 1-2 small green chill­ies with 4 spring onions, a small bunch of co­rian­der and a few sprigs of mint (re­serve some herbs for gar­nish­ing). Add the melted co­conut oil, then blitz into a smooth paste. Fry the paste over a medium heat, stir­ring, for 1 minute. Stir in 1 tsp turmeric, 15 green pep­per­corns, two 400ml tins of co­conut milk, the juice of a lime, 1 tbsp veg stock pow­der and 1 tbsp soy sauce. Add 600ml hot wa­ter from the ket­tle. Smash a lemon­grass stalk so it splin­ters but re­mains to­gether, then tuck it into the pan. Bring to the boil, then lower the heat to a sim­mer. Add ½ a finely sliced but­ter­nut squash to the pan.

Mean­while, shred 100g spinach, then add to a bowl with 100g brown rice noo­dles. Cover with boil­ing wa­ter.

Once the squash is cooked through, add the greens to the soup and al­low it to come to a sim­mer again. Check for sea­son­ing, adding a lit­tle honey if it needs some sweet­ness and more lime and salt as needed. Drain the noo­dles, then di­vide be­tween four bowls. La­dle over the soup and veg­eta­bles, adding a gen­er­ous squeeze of lime juice and a few ex­tra co­rian­der and mint leaves.

4 Not-chicken soup

To serve four: Heat a lit­tle olive oil in a large soup pot over a medium heat. Add 1 quar­tered and thinly sliced medium onion, a finely sliced leek, 3 trimmed and finely sliced fen­nel bulbs (fronds re­served) 3 chopped cel­ery stalks (leaves re­served) and 1 medium car­rot, peeled and chopped into 1cm pieces.

Lower the heat and cook gently for 20-30 min­utes, or un­til ev­ery­thing is very soft and sweet, with­out brown­ing too much. Keep a lit­tle jug of wa­ter close to the pan and add a splash of wa­ter if it looks like it’s go­ing to stick.

Add 8 very thinly sliced medium gar­lic cloves and 2 tbsp grated gin­ger. Cook for an­other 2 min­utes or so, then squeeze in the juice of a lemon. Add 2 litres of wa­ter, a pinch of pep­per and a good pinch of salt (or you can use veg­etable stock if you want a fuller-flavoured soup). Bring to the boil and sim­mer for 20-30 min­utes.

Mean­while, toss 200g tofu, cut into 1cm sticks, in about 3 tbsp soy sauce. Heat a pan with a lit­tle olive oil and fry the tofu un­til crisp. Add a fi­nal ta­ble­spoon of soy sauce and toss quickly in the hot pan: the soy should stick to the tofu and give it a rich stick­i­ness. Re­move from the heat. Your soup should now be about ready. Add about 50g of any left­over pasta: if it’s long noo­dles then break them up as you add them. Cook for an­other 8 min­utes (or as long as it needs). Fi­nally, taste, and ad­just with more salt, wa­ter or even a squeeze more lemon, if needed. La­dle the soup into bowls and top with tofu, fen­nel fronds and cel­ery leaves, plus a good driz­zle of olive oil.

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