I admire anyone who can get through the winter without having soup at least once. I am dismayed by abrupt days, the onset of darkness at 4 o’clock and trying to find a compromise between dressing like a burrito and sacrificing my comfort for the sake of fashion. Some of my family members may like to swim in frozen ponds, but I certainly won’t be joining them any time soon (read: in my entire existence).
Winter, overall, is a time of contrasts. In December, Christmas lights spark an internal fire to shield you against sub zero temperatures. January is a serene month characterised by reflection and adjustment to the rhythm of the new year, while February allows us to embrace the last remnants of winter while knowing that spring is right around the corner. Bleakness and joy interlace everywhere. You may have to brace yourself against the cold each time you step through a door leading to the external world, or if you are like me – accept that your organisational skills need sharpening when you misplace your umbrella four times in a country which is stereotyped by rainy winters. In response, a drive to create more ‘hygge’ in our lives appears throughout society.
For many of us, however, tight schedules render intricate candle-lighting rituals and bubble baths an occasional luxury. As a consequence, we must search for simplicities that nonetheless paint our winters in warmer hues: reading a book on the sofa, visiting a new coffee shop, going for a run in the early morning and increasing your body temperature to a comfortable equilibrium. Another technique, however, can be summarised in four letters. Soup. With many foods having acquired a borderline cult of personality on social media (think avocado, smoothie bowls, pancakes), soup deserves much broader recognition for its qualities, despite being less photogenic than a colourful bowl of porridge.
I recall frequently eating soups when I was younger, losing interest during my early teenage years before rediscovering my love over the last couple of months , since I decided to up the creativity of my cooking. Firstly, soups are easy to make, and do not demand unremitting attention: you can easily do something else as they simmer away. Secondly, they carry an abundance of health benefits, in particular when a medley of spices and vegetables is involved. And last but not least, on certain days nothing can beat a steaming plate of warmth served with a thick slice of bread, especially as fifty percent of the nation seems to be fighting some fort of cold at that given moment.
This soup is peppery, comforting and fragrant, with the noodles helping to soak up the flavours and the vegetables releasing a wholesome, earthy aroma. The chickpeas add an irresistible crunch and deliver a serving of protein – in fact, their versatility and general deliciousness makes them one of my favourite plant based protein sources alongside other varieties of beans. So, yeah, chances are I will still be eating this even as winter gives way to warmer seasons while in my usual contradictory fashion, neglecting smoothie bowls until September. Let me know in the comments if you choose to give this recipe a go!
Rice noodle soup with vegetables and roasted chickpeas
This protein-packed, vegan and nutritious soup makes for a comforting dinner or an easy lunch on a cold day.
- 1 can (400g) canned chickpeas, rinsed and drained
- 1 tbsp agave nectar
- 1/2 tbsp paprika
- 120g baby button mushrooms
- 1/2 yellow bell pepper
- 1/2 large red onion
- 4-5 medium vine tomatoes
- 1 medium carrot
- 1 tbsp tomato paste
- 1 tsp ginger powder
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1.5 tsp mild chilli powder
- 1 tbsp mild curry powder
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- 1/2 tbsp tamarind paste
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 4.5-5 cups vegetable stock (see note 1)
- 1/2 cup soy milk
- 150g white rice noodles
- 10-12 zucchini ribbons (see note 2)
- large handful of chopped kale
- Preheat an oven to 200 degrees C/ 392 F. Distribute chickpeas over a lightly greased baking tray, covering in the agave nectar and the paprika. Roast in the oven for around 20-25 minutes, until golden and crispy.
- Meanwhile, prepare your vegetables. Finely dice the bell pepper and the onion, cut the carrot into thin strips and chop the mushrooms in accordance with your preference. Spray the bottom of a large saucepan with some cooking spray and add the mushrooms and the onions. Stir over a high heat for around 2-3 minutes, before adding the carrot, the pepper and the tomato paste. Stir for a further 2-3 minutes, until the vegetables are translucent.
- Add the vine tomatoes and press down to release the juices. Keep stirring for a further minute.
- Pour in the vegetable stock alongside the soy milk, the ginger powder, the chilli powder, the curry powder, the soy sauce, the tamarind paste and the black pepper. Bring to a boil, before lowering the heat and simmering for around 5-7 minutes.
- Add in the rice noodles and keep simmering for a further 5 minutes (or until the noodles are cooked), stirring occasionally. Take off the heat and stir in the zucchini ribbons and kale.
- Divide between serving bowls and sprinkle with the roasted chickpeas, fresh red onions and more black pepper/sea salt if desired.
Note 1: add more if it starts to get too thick for your liking, but I personally don’t like my soups to be too watery!
Note 2: to make these, simply use a vegetable peeler to cut off wide, thin strips from the zucchini.
Lots of love, Maria ♡