There’s nothing like winter in New England. But all these old offices and schools with their dated HVAC systems make for the perfect breeding ground for the common cold. Conventional wisdom – and even some science – suggests one should rely on chicken soup to fight off this seemingly unstoppable virus.
So what’s an herbivore to do?
As I write this post, I’m fighting off a slight winter cold. It’s my first in a while, and coupled with the piles of fresh snow outside, it’s the perfect reason for some homemade vegan chicken soup.
While there are some canned, and dried options available, I prefer to make mine from scratch. I’ve played with a lot of combinations, changing different broths, mock chicken, and various ingredients. I’ve settled on a combination as described below.
I love garlic. I start most of my soups, and sauces with lots of it. For this soup, I usually start off with about six small-to-medium sized cloves, crushed. I heat it with about a tablespoon of oil to create a base. I’ve been known to add some oregano, or similar herbs, but usually, I keep it simple.
For the veggie blend, I prefer to get a mirepoix prepared for me. Whole Foods, and Trader Joe’s generally have a nice mix of carrots, celery, and onion. If you prefer to chop your own, 2 or 3 carrots, 2 or 3 celery stalks, and a small or medium onion are about the right mix. Once the oil is heated, add these veggies to the mix.
I let them heat a bit, but not for too long or they’ll start to burn. After they’ve softened (maybe 2 minutes) I add the broth. I’ve tried a few bullion cubes, and a couple of nutritional yeast based bases, but nothing beats the low sodium No-Chicken Broth from Imagine Foods.
I used to make this soup with one box of the broth, and two cups of water. I now prefer two boxes, as it provides a less diluted flavor. Bring the broth, and mirepoix to a boil, and add the mock chicken.
There are a lot of options for the mock chicken, and I’ve tried most. Tofurky’s slow roasted chick’n works very well. Beyond Meat’s, and Gardein’s respective chick’n strips don’t quite get soft enough in the broth to make it into my rotation. Instead, my go to for this recipe is West Soy’s chicken style seitan.
The seitan has enough sodium to make up for the low sodium broth, so I generally don’t add much, or any more salt. It also has the perfect texture, and flavor for a mock chicken soup. The texture is chewy, but in a rubbery way. That sounds unappetizing, but it’s actually quite good. Bring to a boil again.
This being a soup to speed up recovery from illness, it wouldn’t be complete without something vitamin packed. Enter blue curled kale. I buy it frozen from Whole Foods. I eyeball how much I put in, but estimate it to be a little over one cup. I measure based on the overall amount of green that shows through.
I also like some good woodsy mushrooms. I buy mixed mushrooms from Woodstock Farms, frozen. The shitake stems in particular bring out a nice earthy flavor. Again, I eyeball here, and add probably three-quarters of a cup. Bring to a boil again.
Finally, I add some orzo pasta – about a third of a cup. Orzo is the pasta shape tha tlooks like big pieces of rice. I use Delallo’s whole wheat. I cook the pasta until it’s soft, which is about 7 minutes.
Finally, I add some cayenne pepper to give the soup a special kick. Adjust according to your heat tolerance. Salt, and pepper to taste. I then let the soup simmer for about twenty to thirty minutes.
I like to top mine with some oyster crackers (vegan from Whole Foods) an
d some Parmesan shreds from Follow Your Heart. This soup is filling, and hearty. It gets better when reheated the next day, as the flavors have had more time to combine.