The Vancouver Farmers Market held the opening weekend of this years winter market season last weekend in their new, larger venue. I wasn’t there, but by all accounts it was a raging success. Not only has the market expanded into a larger venue, but this year the winter markets will be held every weekend, as opposed to alternating weekends, which has been the norm in the past. Needing more space and holding markets more often are indicators of a population that is eating lots of locally produced food, which I think is thrilling. Not so thrilling was realizing that I have agreed to teach a course on Saturday mornings from January – April, which means I will likely miss most of the winter markets during my stint back in Vancouver. Dang. Unless of course, the course doesn’t fill, which would also be bad. I’ll just have to send someone to the market in my place to bring me a mystery basket each week. Oooh, mystery basket could be fun. How Iron Chef!
The farmer’s market season here in Stockholm was quite brief; the market in our area ran for only about 10 weeks in total, and there is no winter market that I know of. Winter is definitely descending upon us in Sweden. The days are cold, which is bearable, and dark, which I am finding a little less bearable. The sun is now setting around 3:30pm, and we’ve got a ways to go before the shortest day on December 22nd*. These photos, I’ll have you know, were taken outside on our balcony, while it was snowing, no less, because that was the only place I could get any decent light. I’m sure you can imagine, what with the cold and the dark and all, the growing season is quite short in Sweden. Finding locally grown produce is becoming a challenge, however, the bulk of the ingredients in this soup were indeed grown in Sweden.
I love these pictures of the sweet potatoes in various states of undress.
The ingredient in this soup with the most food miles, is, without a doubt, the beluga lentils. See, my lovely sister-in-law, Camilla, knows that I love beluga lentils, and not knowing whether I was able to find them in Stockholm or not, she sent me a bag of them in the mail. From Calgary. Which was very sweet. That’s the kind of lady Cammy is; crazy generous. Did you know that Canada is the worlds largest exporter of lentils? I always thought they came from some very exotic and far away place, which indeed they can, but Saskatchewan grows the lion’s share. Who knew? Rest assured I can find beluga, and other lentil varietals in Stockholm, so no need for any shipments.
When I spooned this soup into a bowl, I looked at it and thought I must have been channeling my mother. My mother is a family doctor, and while we were growing up she did her best to ensure that we kids (I am the oldest of four) got our vegetables in. As I’m sure you can imagine, a working mother of four didn’t have a tonne of time on her hands, so when she got on to something that she believed was a vegetable success, she went with it, and then kept going. And going. And going. The lasting result of her efforts is this: I think that miracle whip mixed 50/50 with plain yoghurt is one of the most disgusting substances ever (I think that putting out ‘dip’ was the only way to get my brother to eat any veg, but what qualifies that as a dip I’m still not sure), I don’t ever want to eat an entire head of cauliflour roasted with dill again (it really was good the first 500 or so times, so try it, you might like it), and, most importantly, I can’t even begin to believe that any meal has any nutritional merit whatsoever unless there is something green and something orange on the plate. And I don’t mean garnish.
This soup has something green (kale), and something orange (sweet potatoes), and there are legumes, which are also important because ever since I’ve been a vegetarian (since 1994), my mother has been harping on me about eating beans and lentils. And I mean harping in the utmost of loving ways.
I think talking about the nutritional power punch that this simple soup packs is almost unnecessary, but I’ll spin through it briefly. Sweet potatoes are loaded with fiber, complex carbohydrates, beta carotene, vitamin C, and vitamin B6. Kale? Kale is a form of cabbage, a cousin to broccoli, and is brimming with good stuff; beta carotene, vitamin K, and calcium, just to name a few. Lentils are very high in protein, have lots of dietary fiber, folate, B vitamins, and important minerals, like iron. As with other legumes you’ll need to combine with a grain to get a complete protein, but unlike other legumes you don’t need to soak lentils ahead of cooking them, and they cook up reasonably fast, in about 20 min or so. All this goodness in one soup, you say? Heck yes! All that goodness, swirling around in a tasty broth which has been gently seasoned with thyme and dill. I served it with a little bit of soft goat cheese crumbled on top, and some whole wheat skillet bread.
*You can be as cold and as dark as you want to be, December 22nd, because *we* will be on the beach in Costa Rica. That’s right. For Three. Whole. Weeks.
Winter Market Soup Recipe:
I really love using kale in soup because it’s one of the sturdier greens, and it holds up well in the soup. You could certainly use a different green; beet greens, spinach, swiss chard, or whatever you have on hand. If you’re using a more delicate green, add it in just before serving. If you cook the lentils ahead of time, like say the night before, the prep for this soup is simple: chopping your veg. This soup freezes well, and leftovers make a great weekday dinner on a cold winter night.
2 cups cooked whole lentils (brown, green, or beluga will do – from about 1 cup dry)
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and diced (about 2 cups diced)
2 cups of chopped greens (this was 3 stalks of wrinkly green kale, pulled off the stalks and chopped finely)
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, diced
1 tsp dried thyme
2 tsp dried dill (or 1/4 cup fresh chopped dill if you have it – but add fresh herbs at the end)
8 cups vegetable broth (I started with six, but it wasn’t as brothy as I wanted, so I ended up adding 2 more)
2 Tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Give your lentils a good rinse and put in a pot covered with cold water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for about 20 min, or until lentils are just tender. Drain and set aside.
Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add diced onion and garlic, and sautee until onion is translucent. Add diced sweet potato and dried herbs, and cook for another minute. Pour in vegetable stock, increase heat, and bring to a boil. Once the soup boils, reduce the heat to medium low, cover, and simmer for about 15 min. Check the sweet potatoes and if they are tender, add in the lentils and chopped greens. Simmer for another 5 min, or until the greens have wilted, and season if needed.
All text and photos © The Muffin Myth 2010