Monday, November 2, 2009

Vegetable soup (with dumplings)

Beautiful soup, so rich and green,
Waiting in a hot tureen!
Who for such dainties would not stoop?
Soup of the evening, beautiful soup!
Soup of the evening, beautiful soup!

Beau--ootiful soo-oop! Beau--ootiful soo-oop! Soo--oop of the e--e--evening,
Beautiful, beautiful soup!

Beautiful soup! Who cares for fish,
Game, or any other dish?
Who would not give all else for two
Pennyworth only of beautiful soup?
Pennyworth only of beautiful soup?

Beau--ootiful soo-oop! Beau--ootiful soo-oop! Soo--oop of the e--e--evening,
Beautiful, beauti--FUL SOUP!

-- Lewis Carroll

Ahem. Vegan vegetable soup is the easiest thing in the world to make, and probably the most rewarding. It's one of my weekday go to meals, it's different every time, and it makes me happy every time I have it. And you can serve it with bread or pasta, but dumplings just make this dish.

I love this meal with all my heart. You can have the crummiest day ever, come home so tired you can barely stand up, and compose a wonderful soup from leftovers and scraps in the time it takes you to drink a glass of wine and tell your cats all about it—well, okay, your cats are not likely to be interested, since they are, after all, cats, but have two glasses of wine and like Shirley Valentine you'll feel less inhibited about telling your troubles to the wall. All that said, I didn't have a particularly awful day, but I still came home craving vegetable soup.

You don't need a recipe for this. In my book, only one ingredient is absolutely necessary (and not even that if you use a good vegetable stock instead of the water): one small onion.

You don't need to have your brain on to make a great vegetable soup; you don't need to do advance planning, just stand at the counter and peel and chop and chuck things in. You don't do a mise en place, you don't have to make sure all the ingredients are standing by: it will be good no matter what you do.

I seldom use a stock for vegetable soup. What I do is this:

Basic vegetable soup
Serves 2

Heat 1 tbsp canola oil in a medium saucepan. Chop one small onion into a medium dice, and when the oil is hot, add it.

While the onion is heating, riffle through the fridge and pick out the things that might be good in soup. Maybe you have some little odds and ends that need to be used up, a single carrot, or a few leaves of cabbage, half a green pepper, the tender pale inside leaves of celery...Today I used:

1 carrot, finely diced
1 potato, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 jalapeno pepper, minced
1/4 sweet red pepper, chopped
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp coriander
3 medium leaves kale, de-stemmed and roughly chopped
several slices of dehydrated tomatoes, roughly sliced
2 medium bok choy, chopped
1/2 cup frozen corn kernels
1/2 cup cooked beans (I used azuki)
salt and pepper to taste

You can be chopping and adding so long as you do it in more or less the order of the above ingredient list, so the vegetables that need more cooking time get it. Sauté the onion, carrot, potato, and peppers for a few minutes just until softened. Add the cumin and coriander and stir for an additional 30 seconds or so. Cover with water to coat + 1 inch. Add the kale and dehydrated tomatoes and cook for the time it takes you to chop the bok choy and get the frozen corn and beans out of the freezer. Add those ingredients, and bring to a simmer. Add salt and pepper to taste.

The vegetables at this point are not fully cooked yet, and the broth is just beginning to simmer. Now for the piece de resistance. You can make these dumplings out of any kind of flour, but I've tried it all, and whole wheat is by far my favorite:

Whole wheat dumplings
Serves 2

1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp Earth Balance or canola oil (if you use canola oil, also add 1/4 tsp salt)
soy milk, rice milk, stock, or water

Place the whole wheat flour in a small bowl. Add the baking powder and mix well. Add the EB or oil and mix again until the whole is relatively well incorporated. Add liquid until the dough just holds together.

You can spoon teaspoonsful of this batter right into the simmering soup, or you can roll teaspoonsful into little balls, or you can even dump the dough onto a cutting board and cut it into squares. At any rate, little pieces of it get dropped into the simmering soup. Put a lid over it and let it continue to simmer for 20 minutes.

After 20 minutes, both the soup and the dumplings will have reached perfection. Spoon them out into bowls, add any toppings or condiments you fancy, and serve! And then leave a comment if you've ever tasted anything more paradisial in this life of sorrows.


  1. I'm so glad someone else loves soup as much as I do! Those dumplings look amazing, and I will definitely be adding them to one of my own soup experiments soon!

  2. If I remember correctly, that was the Mock Turtle's lament...Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass is one of my all-time favorites. I've even reread it several times as an adult.

    The soup looks wonderful; still so vibrant, not overcooked and dull like soups can do sometimes.

    BTW: I understand if you don't wish to divulge your secrets...but how do you take such bright photos. I can't get any brightness at all to mine unless I wait and take them at midday.

  3. Rose...I give my photos as much light as I can (using the new curly fluorescent bulbs, which tend to give a pure white light), and make sure my camera's settings are set to match, and then sometimes I edit them a little with my photoedit software...brightness up, contrast up...shhhh...

  4. Thanks for the tips...I'm ever striving to get better at the old photos, photography just doesn't come easy to me ;)

  5. Well, frankly, if I can do it, anybody can ;-)