Thursday, April 7, 2011

Saffron Soup

I received Heidi Swanson's new cookbook (Super Natural Every Day) a few days ago.  Part of the wonder of this book is the beautiful photos (which she takes herself) but the other part is the wonderful, creative vegetarian food she creates.  Her books are a great place to get inspired when I feel out of ideas.  (her previous book Super Natural is wonderful also.)  Also, both of these cookbooks are about food any home cook can accomplish, no chefy nonsense.

This recipe is my take on Heidi's Chickpea Stew (hers has eggs and dairy, so I had to change it up a bit)

Saffron is an investment (runs about $15 for a gram).  Granted, I'm kind of a food nerd, by from my perspective there is no substitute for saffron and its worth the price because the taste is fabulous (and the fragrance also).  (Note:  I just saw saffron on from pretty cheap to extremely expensive - I might try amazon next time I need it - they have anything!)  Saffron lends a touch of the exotic, its quite common in Moroccan and Spanish cooking. 

Saffron is very labor intensive to grow and harvest click here for the wikipedia entry for saffron.  Its got a very long and interesting history.

This soup has a very delicate flavor and the saffron really shines.

This recipe has been shared at Slight Indulgent Tuesdays at Amy Green's blog Simple Sugar and Gluten Free.

1 - 2 tablespoons coconut oil (or olive oil)
2 large shallots, minced 
salt to taste
2 - 4 garlic cloves, minced
3 cups vegetable stock (or water)
pinch of saffron
3 cups cooked chickpeas (or 1 15-oz can, drained and rinsed)
head of cauliflower (cut into quite small flowerettes - to nearly match the size of the chickpeas)
1 13.6 oz can full-fat organic coconut milk
handful of cilantro, cleaned and chopped

Heat the coconut oil in a large saucepan or dutch oven.  Add shallots and a pinch of salt, saute until shallots begin to take on some color. 

Meanwhile, heat the broth (or water) and drop in the saffron.  Let this sit for a few minutes to allow the saffron to 'bloom'.

Add minced garlic to the shallots and saute a few minutes more.  Add cauliflower and drained chickpeas and continue to saute a few minutes.

Add broth.  Bring soup to a gentle simmer.

Open the can of coconut milk and spoon the solid part into your soup (you can use the whole can, including the more watery part - depending on how you like you soup), stir to incorporate.  Taste and add more salt if desired.  (can also add red pepper flake if you like spicy)

Turn off heat and add cilantro, stir into soup.  Serve

- use yogurt or sour cream in place of coconut milk
- If not using saffron, substitute a bit of curry paste or curry powder (add this to the shallots and garlic and allow to saute for a few minutes)
- use any other combination of vegetable and beans you like (for instance: cannelini beans and broccoli or kidney beans and zucchini)
- don't like cilantro?  add something else green: spinach, dandelion greens, finely chopped kale...
- of course, cooked chicken breast can be added
- white fish would be great here also, just place the portion sized pieces in the gently simmering broth and allow to cook thru - should take 10 - 15 minutes.

And - for an asian take on this soup:
- in place of saffron, season with small amounts of fresh minced ginger, tamari, fish sauce, red pepper flake
- gently warm cubed firm tofu in the soup and add chopped bok choy, napa cabbage, and cilantro at the very end so the greens will stay a bit crisp


  1. This looks amazing! I am curious if you think that Rice Milk with some potato flour as a thickener might work in place of coconut milk? The allergist told us to stay away from coconut just in case my daughter had a reaction due to her other allergies. I love Heidi Swanson's books and website but I do find them very egg and cheese centric which is tricky so I usually get her first book from the library now and then. I'm hearing wonderful things about her new book so I am patiently waiting for my library reserve to come in.

    I found you via Allergy Friendly Friday, by the way. :)

  2. Hi Homa - if you want to try this recipe w/out the coconut milk, rice milk could work. You probably do not need the potato flour as thickener - the soup does not need it. What you will be missing is the beautiful and healthy fats from the coconut milk which also create a certain 'mouth feel'. I would try adding a bit more olive oil (or whatever oil you use for the sauting). It will be different w/out the coconut oil & milk - but probably still good! Let me know how it works out for you.