white bean gumbo

gumbo is a thickened soup from louisiana that always puts me in my happy place. i can’t help eating bowl after bowl…it’s so satisfying!

this gumbo starts with a dark roux, a very different flour and fat mixture than you would use for a white sauce. this one gets cooked a long time, until it’s very dark brown and nutty. the result is a toastiness that is one of the signature flavours of gumbo. once you’ve made the roux, the rest is easy.

it’s not that roux is difficult, but it needs your attention. roux while it’s cooking is extremely hot. you’re essentially deep-frying flour, so don’t walk away. don’t check your instagram feed. just, don’t. it will take about 4-5 minutes to get the roux to the right stage. it will turn golden, then become curdled and lumpy, and finally smooth and deep brown. just stand there and give it 100% attention and stir it and you’ll be fine. a dark roux like this doesn’t really thicken too much, but it makes the soup shiny and full of body.

gumbo usually contains chicken, sausage, shrimp, crawfish, or any combo of these. since ours is vegan, i’ve added some white beans. you could also throw in some vegetarian sausage, which i sometimes do.

the final thickening comes at the end, when you add the okra. i think okra is a beautiful vegetable. if you’ve never tried it, do! it gets a bad rap for it’s slightly slimy texture, but it’s no different from a banana, and it thickens this soup so nicely. 

a recipe for gumbo spice blend follows. when i’m not using it for gumbo, it gets sprinkled on roasted cauliflower, or pan-fried potatoes for breakfast.

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white bean gumbo

1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup flour
3 stalks celery, diced
2 red bell peppers, diced
2 onions, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 can plum tomatoes
8 cups water
2 tbsp. gumbo spice blend
2 tsp. salt
freshly ground black pepper
4 cups cooked white beans such as white kidney or navy beans (2 19-oz cans, drained)
2 cups sliced okra
1/2 lemon
hot cooked rice
fresh chopped parsley

place the chopped celery, bell pepper, onions, and garlic in a bowl. open the tomatoes and dump into another bowl. crush them with your hands, breaking them up well.

in a large pot heat the oil over medium-high heat. add the flour, turn the heat down to medium and cook, stirring constantly, until it turns a rich, dark brown colour and just begins to smoke, about 5 minutes. add the bowl of vegetables, reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring, for 3 minutes. add the gumbo spice blend, salt and pepper, and pour in the tomatoes. give a quick stir, then add the water. increase heat to high. bring to a boil, then reduce heat back down to medium and cook, uncovered, for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the soup has thickened. add the cooked beans and the okra. cook for another 15 minutes. squeeze in the juice of the half lemon.

place a mound of rice in a bowl. top with the gumbo, and sprinkle with parsley. serve with hot sauce on the side.

gumbo spice blend

2 tbsp sweet paprika
1 tbsp. hot smoked paprika
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tbsp. thyme leaves
1 tbsp. onion powder
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. quatre epices
1 tbsp dried oregano leaves

mix everything together and store in a glass jar.

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spicy red lentil soup

a very quick, simple red lentil soup that’s rich and full of warm spicy flavour. i do all the vegetables in the food processor for ease.

a blitz of the finished soup in the blender makes for a silky finish, but it’s not essential.

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spicy red lentil soup

2 onions, finely diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 carrots, scraped and diced
2 stalks celery, finely minced
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 cups red lentils
8 cups water or vegetable stock
6 plum tomatoes, mashed, with their juices (i use my hands and squish them in a bowl)
2 tsp. ground cumin seed
2 tsp. ground coriander seed
1 tsp. garam masala
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
3 tsp. sea salt
Fresh pepper
juice of 1 lemon

in a large pot heat the oil to medium. add the onion, garlic, carrot, and celery. cover and cook 10 minutes, or until vegetables are softened. add the lentils, stock or water, tomatoes, and spices. bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium, and simmer, stirring occasionally at first, and more frequently at the end, until lentils have broken down, about 30 minutes. taste, and check seasoning. finish with a squeeze of lemon. puree soup in a food processor, blender, or use an immersion blender, and if you like, garnish with a swirl of natural yogurt and cilantro leaves.

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