I’ve mentioned before that I could eat soup any time of the year, and I truly appreciate the fact that soup always makes great leftovers. Less time stressing over what to bring to work for lunch = happy and pleasant me. However, when I made this Chickpea and Shiitake Mushroom Soup the other day, I almost had to hide the soup pot after Rob and I had a couple bowls: it was so good that it sure seemed that we were going to wolf down the whole pot and not leave any leftovers for the following day!
UPDATE July 2015: This recipe has been approved by Dr. Michael Greger of Nutrition Facts.org to be a part of his healthy plant-based recipe directory!
I’ve made different variations of this soup in the past months, but it all started as an attempt to recreate one of my favorite soups form my childhood. My parents used to make this hearty and delicious soup with rich cuts of lamb or beef back when I was a wee lass growing up in Russia. We called it kharcho (харчо in Russian) – if you Google it, it comes up as ‘Georgian lamb and rice soup’ (Georgia being the country in the Caucasus mountains, not the Southern US state). I continued making this soup after I moved to the US long before Rob and I entertained any thoughts about going vegan. Rob absolutely loved this soup, and every pot of it never stayed around for too long in the fridge.
Then our vegan days came. Although I was excited to discover so many delicious new plant-based dishes, I kind of missed the rich flavor of kharcho every now and then. What I didn’t miss was all the fat from oil and rich cuts of meat that saturated this soup. For a while, I was sure that recreating this rich flavor in a vegan way was an impossible feat, especially if I wanted to make it oil-free. (Why no oil in my recipes? See this post over here.) I kept trying though, and eventually this recipe was born!
The combination of tomato paste-based broth, mushrooms, chickpeas and rice gives this soup the exact richness I was looking for, no oil or added fat needed. I especially like the chewy texture of dried and reconstituted shiitake mushrooms that make a great substitution for meat strips from the original recipe. To make the soup even healthier, I topped each bowl with a generous handful of chopped fresh spinach.
Why adding spinach before serving the soup, and not when it’s still cooking? I find that spinach wilts very well when added to a piping hot broth, and adding it to the pot of soup while it’s in progress tends to overcook spinach. If you don’t want to top each bowl with fresh spinach, however, you’re welcome to stir it in right after you take the pot of soup off the heat.
Sprinkle each bowl with black pepper, chopped parsley or scallions, and you’ll get exactly the soup I grew up loving so much! Except for this time, it will be meat-free and much healthier.
This rich and hearty soup will be a hit with your family on cold winter nights. It makes for delicious leftovers the following day! Top each bowl with fresh spinach, or add spinach to the soup just before taking it off the heat. Plant-based vegan, oil-free recipe.
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 2 medium carrots, diced
- 2-3 celery stalks, diced
- 2-3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
- 5-7 dried shiitake mushrooms*
- 1 ½ cup fresh crimini or button mushrooms, sliced
- ½ cup brown rice, uncooked
- 1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed, or 1 ½ cups cooked chickpeas
- 4 Tbsp tomato paste
- 8 cups of water or low sodium vegetable broth, plus more for sautéing vegetables
- 1-2 cubes low sodium veggie bouillon (optional, best when using water instead of broth), or substitute with 1-2 Tbsp of low sodium soy sauce
- Handful of fresh spinach, roughly chopped, to serve**
- 1 tsp cumin
- ½ tsp dried oregano
- ½ tsp dried rosemary (or 1 tsp fresh)
- ¼ tsp dried thyme
- ½ tsp paprika
- Dash cayenne pepper
- Place dried shiitake mushrooms in a small bowl, pour boiling hot water over them, and set aside to soak while you go through the next steps, or up to 1 hour if you have time. For best results, place a small saucer or a lid on top of the mushrooms to submerge them deeper.
- Bring your water or vegetable broth to a boil, set aside. Rinse and drain the rice. Open a can of chickpeas, drain and rinse them.
- Add diced onion, celery and carrot to a large heated soup pot. Sautée the vegetables over medium heat for 3-5 min, adding 1-2 tbsp of water or broth at a time to prevent sticking. Add minced garlic and sautée 30 seconds longer. Add tomato paste; stir the mixture until the paste is well incorporated. Add rinsed brown rice, mix it in and cook 2-3 min to lightly steam it. Add all of the spices and cook them until fragrant, about 1 min.
- Meanwhile, slice the soaked shiitake mushrooms into thin strips, about ¼ of an inch thin. Add them to the soup pot along with drained and rinsed chickpeas. Pour the boiling hot water or broth over the mixture. The goal is to have the soup a little thin at this time because the rice will expand a lot during cooking. If your soup mixture looks thick, add more water. You can also add the water from soaking the shiitake mushrooms, being careful to hold back the dirty particles from the bottom of the soaking bowl. Add the bouillon cubes/low sodium soy sauce if using.
- Bring the soup to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer for 20 minutes. Add sliced crimini or button mushrooms to the pot, and cook 5-7 minutes longer, or until the rice is completely cooked through. Adjust the seasoning to your taste, take the soup off the heat, and let sit for 10 min before serving.
- Serve topped with chopped spinach** and/or parsley if desired.
*I prefer using dried shiitake mushrooms because they have a chewier texture once cooked, plus they are more affordable than fresh shiitake, and have a long shelf life.
*I find that hot soup broth does a good job wilting fresh spinach, that’s why I suggest using it when serving the soup. Alternatively, you can add the spinach to the soup just before taking it off the heat in step 5.
And now, I have a big announcement to make: I’M GOING TO RUN ANOTHER MARATHON IN JUNE!!! Yes, I’ve just signed up to participate in the Rock’n’Roll Seattle Marathon on June 13th, 2015, and the thought of this is finally beginning to settle in my head.
This is going to be my 3rd marathon – second since going vegan – and I’m really excited to test not just my physical endurance and dedication, but also the ability to adapt to a completely different environment (Seattle is much more hilly than Pensacola, FL, where I ran my two previous marathons, and the climate is different), time of the year (training through the winter and spring as opposed to summer and fall), and circumstances (I didn’t have a job while I was training before, and now I have a full-time job on top of my blogging commitment).
How am I going to do all of this? Well, let’s wait and see! I’ve originally started this blog when I began training for my 2nd marathon, and because I didn’t have a job, I blogged about my progress every week for the 16 weeks of training in addition to everything else I posted about. You can find all of those posts over here – I’ll be revisiting those records to refresh my memory. Since I’m only capable of churning out one post a week these days, I’m going to save you from reading about the great ol’ me-me-me all the time, and will only post updates once a month.
We are five months away from my big date in June, and since I haven’t done a lot of running lately, I’m going to spend the next month focusing on running more frequently, beginning with shorter runs of 3 miles at a time. There will be less weightlifting than I’ve been doing (and loving!) lately, but it’s all for a reason.
Please wish me luck! I’m going to need lots and lots of it to stay injury-free and sane. In the meantime, I would love to hear from you: Have you set any fitness goals for this year? Any exciting races you’re planning to participate in? If so, let’s do this together and motivate each other!