|Spice Road Soup|
|Spice Road Soup|
As I read through the Spices book, studied online, and talked to spice shop owners and the proprieters of ethnic food shops, I started to rebuild my spice rack with new, fresh spices. I bought fresh cardamom pods, both green and black, and a mortar and pestle to go with them. The green cardamom had the familiar perfume I’d come to recognized via the ubiquitous pulla in Finland – sweet cardamom rolls sold in every coffee shop and quite delicious with a cup of coffee. Only these fresh cardamom pods were ten times more fragrant, and I was surprised at how powerful the smell was. The pungency of the black cardamom actually shocked me – it’s smell reminscent of eucalyptus combined with fresh ground black pepper and isn’t a pleasant scent at all – it will be added soon to a slow oven roast where the flavors will mellow and meld with the dish. Black cardamom and baked goods will never be good friends, I don’t think.
I hunted down sumac to make Za’atar from a recipe found at 101 Cookbooks, and bought a fresh sachet of dried oregano as well as black sesame to toast and add to the dish. The Za’atar was first added to yogurt until I became more adventurous and dumped generous tablespoons of it into a cold Spelt Salad along side of quick-pickled red onion, not-so-quickly preserved lemon and fresh Naval orange.
I picked up curry, a tandoori blend, turmeric, cumin, and dried coriander pods, looking forward to adding their perfume to my kitchen. I learned that warming the spices before adding them to the dish brings out their flavor – so that the flavors of the finished taste warmer, matured. I discovered that homemade Italian Seasoning is as simple as a thing could be and curiously satisfying. Most importantly, I became more adventurous about combining various spices to see what gastronomic paths unusual combinations might lead me down.
This soup is like a journey down the Spice Road from ages ago, and brings a new appreciation of the importance of the Spice Trade and an understanding of why spices were so highly valued as a currency. It combines spices grown around the world together with beans, buckwheat and vegetables to create a robust meal with great depth of flavor. Serve this with a strong bread such as rye, wholewheat, or spelt. Then go take a look at your spice rack and begin some experiments of your own. And if you see me out somewhere with bright yellow thumbs, blame it on the turmeric.
Spice Road Soup
1. In a medium-large pot combine over medium heat:
4 cups vegetable broth
1/3 cup whole buckwheat
1 cup cooked black beans
1 cup cooked chickpeas
3/4 cup diced firm tofu or okara (by-product of making tofu or soy milk)
1 large carrot, chopped to equal 3/4 cup
1 cup chopped cauliflower
1 cup steam Swiss chard (approximately 2 cups fresh)
Bring the mixture to a bowl and reduce to a simmer.
2. In a mortar (or a spice grinder) combine the following spices:
1/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/4 teaspoon chili pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon curry powder
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 bay leaf, crushed
2 green cardamom pods, pod discarded and seeds reserved or 1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
Crush the spices until they are roughly ground. Transfer the spices to a small saucepan and warm over dry, high heat until the spices are fragrant and are just beginning to smoke. Pour the spices into the soup and cover.
Allow the soup to simmer for 25 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Allow to rest for 10 minutes before serving.