Saturday, December 27, 2008

Winter at the farmers' market I: Detox Chorba

This will warm you up and make you smack your lips!

I went to the farmers' market this morning with the idea of getting what's in season to make a complete meal for me and my 5 lunch guests. I found a lot of fruits and veggies to play with.
I knew that I wanted a break from holiday foods, and I had in mind to make a sort of "detox soup", warming, hydrating and detoxifying at the same time.
When I researched what spices were good for detoxifying puposes, I realized that, combined with the veggies in season, I would end up with something North African. I made what I call my "detox chorba", with couscous on the side.

It was a Proust madeleine moment for me: it reminded me of winters in Paris, when it's cold and grey outside, and you push the door of one of the numerous couscous cantinas. You and your friends take off coats, scarves and gloves and sit together at a formica table to eat a warm, tasty and colorful dish for a few euros. The steam blurs the windows and you are so thankful to be inside. You add extra harissa to your stew to warm you up from within.

There's nothing like steamy soup!

"Detox Chorba"
1/4 cup cooking oil (coconut, canola)
3 onions
soy sauce
5 celery stalks
3 carrots
4 cups of veggie stock
4 cups water
1/2 bunch of rainbow chard (or anything green -if spinach: add it at the end)
2 cups of crushed tomatoes*
1 tbsp sundried tomato flakes*
(you can substitute for 2 tbsp tomato paste, but I had frozen tomatoes from last summer in my freezer)
1 cup tomatoes, cut in chunks (I did find some at the market! But you can do without, or add a little more paste, or tomato flakes)
1 red pepper
1 cup cooked garbanzo beans
1 tsp nutmeg
2 tsp ras-el-hanout (a North african blend of spices with pepper, cardamom, mace, cayenne, ginger, fennel, nutmeg, allspice, cinnamon, cloves, turmeric, lavender and dried rosebuds)
1/2 tsp cumin
1 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp harissa blend
2 tsp herbes de provence
2 tsp rosemary
10 peppercorns
2 bay leaves
1 inch of sliced fresh ginger
1/4 cup roasted pinenuts
celery leaves
2 cups dried couscous (you can substitute for quinoa if wheat doesn't agree with you)
1/2 cup raisins
olive oil

In a big pot, caramelize the onions in coconut oil. Stir frequently. Add "detox" herbs and spices: rosemary, herbes de Provence (incl Oregano), turmeric, ras et hanout, harissa blend (don't overdo it: it's hot!), whole peppercorn and stir the whole thing (adding a little soy sauce or water if it starts sticking).
When the onions are cooked and taste sweet, add chopped celery, carrots, chards stalk, and red pepper. Stir.
When everything is a little soft (after 10 minutes), add stock and tomatoes. Put in the bay leaves, the chunks of ginger, the chard leaves and the garbanzo beans. (Add water if the soup is too thick). Bring it almost to a boil and then turn the heat down. Simmer. If you have a crockpot: transfer after 15 minutes and let your soup sit there. The longer, the tastier!

Couscous: (I do it the simple way: no couscous-cooker, no double-steaming or other culinary refinement) I cook it like rice. In a pot, mix couscous grains and raisins with a little bit of olive oil and double the volume of cold water. Cover the pot, bring to a boil, turn the heat off and let the grains expand for 15 minutes. Once it is cooked, fluff it lightly with a fork.


Lily said...

Sandrine, this sounds awesome - I'm entering a big soup phase so i can somehow cure my neverending cold, and this will be a great addition. Question: though this recipe doesn't call for vegetable stock, many soup and stew recipe's do, and it always feel like a waste of money and materials buying stock and broth from the store. do you have any recipes for homemade stock? merci!

Sandrine B. said...

Hi Lily,

This recipe does call for some veggie stock, but I think I just call it broth.

Homemade veggie broths make soups taste so much better...
I made one today and used all fresh veggies, but you can definitely use your scraps, or mix fresh + scraps. You can absolutely store scraps in your freezer, to use when you are ready.

I usually make a classic mirepoix, ie onions, celery and carrots
Here's a great recipe on a great website (with great pics):

My trick (yes, I do have one...):
Caramelize your onions first (cook them in oil, stir regularly, until they are sweet, it can take 20 to 30 minutes, if they start sticking, add a little tamari or water, and lower the heat). Then add the rest of the veggies, cook for for 5 minutes, stirring regularly. Then add the water (plus bay leaves, plus peppercorn). I think cooking onions and veggies first your gives your broth so much flavor. I let it simmer forever, I even put it in my crockpot on low all night.

I cannot buy any of the premade stuff anymore. Mine is cheap, easy, healthy, tasty and doesn't come packaged.

What to do with the cooked veggies that remain? You will end up with a
mush of cooked, not so sexy veggies. I make an awesome veggie spread with those. Cook
together, and then blend: cooked lentils+ sauteed mushrooms+ your favorite spices and/or herbs + veggie mush (+ nutritional yeast *post* blending)= great veggie pâté.

-for more info:

For your cold, try my magic sauce.
1 tsp of miso paste
1 inch of fresh ginger, grated
1 tsp of fresh garlic, pressed
1 tbsp tamari/soy sauce
2 tbsp olive oil
the juice of one lemon.
Blend everything into a food processor.
Pour it on your steamed veggies, your stir-fries or add it to a simple veggie and grain soup.
Garlic, miso and ginger are warm foods, ideal for fighting colds, lemon contains vitamin C, and oil helps you absorb some good nutrients contained in foods. For steam veggies, choose kale (, broccoli, carrots, red pepper...

NB If you make a big quantity of the chorba and eat a lot of it in the course of one week, you will smell sweet and spicy... ;)

Lily said...

that sauce sounds amazing. thank you!!!