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winter cupboard curry soup

when TDHH*  is away and i’m on my own for supper, i tend to revert back to my vegetarian ways.  you see, TDHH is a meat guy.  he’s the commander of the barbecue and the cook of all meat.  sure, he’s open to meatless meals, but given his way dinner would usually be built around some form of animal protein.  me, i’m an omnivore with vegetarian tendencies.  thus, my solo-supper of choice is usually espinacas con garbanzos (from the amazing deb at smitten kitchen) for three reasons:   1) it is sublimely delicious and relatively healthy, 2) it is just involved enough to feel as if i’m really cooking, but not so tedious that it takes hours to prepare and 3) TDHH dislikes spinach and smoked paprika, both key ingredients.  sadly, i didn’t have the requisite fresh spinach on hand (and i wasn’t inclined for the 1 hour return trip to the grocery store) so i went shopping in my modest basement pantry instead.

being winter in rural ontario, there is no such thing as a real tomato.  oh yes, there are tomatoes that look like tomatoes, but these imposters neither smell nor taste like the real thing.  were i a true homesteader, i’d have a freezer and pantry full of preserved garden-delights, but i’m not there yet.  yet.  anyhow, dinner options were limited to two of my pantry staples: chickpeas and canned tomatoes.  this could be soup, i thought to myself.  yes, inauthentic curry soup, yes.  with spices and coconut milk and chutney.  yes!

the recipe i went to comes from one of my favourite vegetarian cookbooks, rebar modern food cookbook.  if you’ve ever been to their restaurant in victoria, you’ll understand why.  their food is so good and so wholesome that you want to take the chefs home with you.  of course they have the luxury of living in a pacific-northwest pantry with year-round bounty at their doorstep…lucky, lucky folks.  their original recipe calls for fresh tomatoes and whole spices, which aren’t to hand these days, so i tweaked their brilliant recipe somewhat to suit my current kitchen supplies.  the end result is a soup that is so much more than the sum of its parts (despite the fact that it rather resembles baby food in my photo).  it is mellow and warming with a gentle spicy flavour that belies its humble ingredients.  i might add that it is TDHH-approved.

winter cupboard curry soup (adapted from rebar, ready to eat in 45 minutes, serves 4)

4 cups   vegetable stock
1-2 tbsp   vegetable oil
1   small onion, finely diced
1 tsp   salt
1   bay leaf
4   cloves garlic
2 tbsp   minced ginger (i keep fresh ginger in the freezer and grate with a microplane as needed)
1/2   red pepper, roughly chopped
about 4 cups   chopped tomato (canned is fine)
1-2 tsp   cumin (depending on taste)
1-2 tsp   coriander (ditto)
1/2 – 1 tsp   paprika (ditto)
1-2 tsp   garam masala (ditto)
1/4 tsp   coarse ground pepper
1/8 tsp   turmeric
one  540 mL can   chickpeas (rinsed)
1/4 – 1/2 cup   prepared mango chutney (depending on taste)
1/2 can (200 mL)   coconut milk (i think you can get away with low-fat here, which saves 1098230 grams of fat)

fresh cilantro (if you have any in the fridge, to serve)
plain yogurt (to serve)

step one:  heat oil in a large pot on medium heat, add onion, 1/2 tsp salt and bay leaf and saute until the onions are soft and golden.  while onions are cooking, place garlic, ginger, pepper and tomatoes in a food processor and pulse until you have a rough puree (if you don’t have a food processor, you could just mince everything by hand and combine).  set aside for now.

step two:  add all of the spices to the golden onions and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes.  add the vegetable puree and the final 1/2 tsp salt (if desired), simmer until small blob of oil appear on the surface (for me, a good 10-15 minutes).  add the chickpeas and stock and bring to a simmer.  cook for several minutes, then stir in the chutney and coconut milk.  using a wand-blender (you know what i mean, right?) or a potato masher, break up most of the chickpeas to help thicken the soup.  simmer gently, then keep warm until ready to serve with some warm naan bread (from the freezer, of course) and fresh cilantro (er, if it’s around).  it’s also nice to drizzle with a little extra coconut milk (if you’re throwing caution to the wind) or stir in some plain yogurt (if you’re very, very good).

*(tall, dark and handsome husband)

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