Warming Winter Soup

by Maia Bedson

Winter 2015, Living Well Magazine

The inspiration for this soup came after Paul and I had spent eight weeks on the outback road, camping in remote National Parks where a drop-toilet was a luxury!

It was an amazing time, being out in the NT and Kimberley, just the two of us and lots of native animals (including a few alarming ones).

Needless to say, picking up dinner at the local Thai wasn’t an option so we carried dry food with us and added fresh food when we passed through a town – though what was on offer differed a lot from our local organic Farmer’s market – often just some carrots and zucchini.

So most nights, we dined under a canopy of brilliant stars and a symphony of bush sounds with just two alternating recipes. One was vegetable dhal using red lentils and the other was lentil soup using brown lentils. Paul would joke, “What’s for dinner tonight, darling – why don’t we have lentil soup or lentil stew for a change?” Well, it was the easiest and tastiest way to make use of the few vegetables we could buy and simple for cooking on the campfire.

And I have to say that we enjoyed every dinner. We felt so blessed to explore this sacred landscape together and live so simply. However as we were homeward-bound, we pulled into a small town where there wasn’t much more than a service station but noticed an interesting sign called the “Giddy Goat” Cafe. And what a revelation it was, home-cooked meals with a healthy-focus and fresh ingredients.

The ‘soup of the day’ was Cauliflower and Potato, and after 8 weeks of lentils the different flavours were dancing on our tastebuds. And being back in the chilly south after hot days up north, this delicious soup was not only nourishing and sustaining but warming right to our bones.

Here in this recipe, I have tried to recapture the feeling of that delicious soup using ingredients once considered old-fashioned, that are now making a comeback with the renewal of interest in healthy, nourishing foods.

It seems we have a longing for the ingredients and food our grandmothers and great-grandmothers cooked as staples that have been missing from our modern lifestyles.

Cauliflower has been an important vegetable in the Mediterranean region since 600BC and no wonder – high in vitamins C, K and B6, folate and potassium, its anti-oxidants and phytonutrients reduce oxidative stress, are anti-inflammatory and its high fibre content supports our digestive function. Though from the Cruciferous family, it is gentler on the digestive system than cabbage. (Ian Gawler used to encourage people to eat cabbage regularly and to get a dog so when visitors came around, they could blame any odiferous effects on their canine companion!)

Parsnips, from the same family as celery, parsley and carrots and used extensively by the ancient Greeks and Romans, have nutrients that aid our nervous system, help with depression and their soluble fibre is considered to reduce cancer and diabetes risk and lower cholesterol. Many children have never heard of parsnips and think of them as spongy white carrots – let’s rescue the reputation of this unassuming vegetable!

The humble potato has its origins in Peru and Bolivia around 10,000 years ago, and when organic (and not fried or covered in butter) is high in anti-oxidants that neutralise free-radicals, potassium which cancer cells do not like, and B6 which is a vitamin that is involved in more than 100 enzymatic reactions in our body, especially the formation of healthy new cells. Keep the skin on them, as there is a higher concentration of their nutrients just under the skin. Make sure you discard any potatoes that have green patches on their skin as this indicates a naturally forming glycoalkaloid poison called solanine that can cause vomiting.

Garlic, from the Lily family, has been used for over 7,000 years including being an important part of the Mediterranean diet with its widely studied health benefits. Garlic is anti-viral, anti-fungal and anti-bacterial, cardio-protective as it lowers blood triglycerides and cholesterol, helps stabilise blood sugar levels and is a wonderful detoxifier. We ate it every day on our trip and were not sick. Also bugs kept away from us but that could have been due to our attempts to master yodelling around the campfire.

Ginger is an ancient remedy for relaxing the digestive tract and is wonderful for relieving nausea whether it stems from chemotherapy, travel-sickness, morning-sickness, windiness (not the climate kind!) or any other cause.

Cayenne pepper has long been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurvedic medicine to treat circulatory problems and for reducing muscular and joint pain. We also added it to our lentil stew or lentil soup for its warming properties on those cold desert nights. I’ve heard of it being used to keep feet warm by sprinkling it in socks but our feet were stained enough from the red dust of the earth.

Fenugreek seed is something I use regularly as it is a traditional cleanser for the lymphatic system and has also long been used for hormonal and reproductive health. It gives food a spiciness that is not as strong as curry so many people find it easier on their digestive system.

Warming Winter Soup

Ingredients

1 whole Cauliflower
2 large or 4 small Parsnips
4 medium Potatoes
1 small head Garlic
Thumb-sized piece Ginger
1/2 tsp Cayenne Pepper
3 tsp Fenugreek seeds

Method

Cut the cauliflower into pieces, stalk included and place in a large pot.
Scrub and cut the parsnip and potatoes, leaving the skin on, and add to the pot.
Fill with water to just below the level of the vegetables.
Peel the garlic and place cloves whole into the pot.
Scrub and cut the ginger, leaving skin on, and add to the pot.
Include Cayenne and Fenugreek
Bring just to the boil then turn heat down to simmer until vegetables are soft but not overcooked. Puree soup with a hand-held blender and allow to sit for 20 minutes before serving to allow the flavours to develop even further.
Serve with a parsley garnish, warm crusty bread and enjoy with good company!

 Serves 6

Maia Bedson

Therapist, Facilitator, The Gawler Cancer Foundation & Yarra Valley Living Centre

DipHol Couns, Grad DipCounsHS, Grad DipClinNut

Maia is a counsellor, meditation instructor, a practitioner of various forms of natural therapies who has worked in the area of energetic healing for over 20 years and has worked at The Gawler Cancer Foundation since 2000. She has a Graduate Diploma in Clinical Nutrition as well as formal qualifications in plant-based nutrition, counselling and psychotherapy. Maia uses her various skills and the experience gained from her own healing to inspire and support others on their path to wholeness and has a particular interest in helping people to access their own inner wisdom.