How to make healthy choices every day

Reverse Universe Soup

We all made it.
Through the so-called apocalypse and another turn around the sun on this crazy and beautiful planet of ours.

I laughed a little at the mass hysteria over December 21, 2012. The end of the world? Nope, just a different one perhaps, and a new beginning. If the world has turned upside down and we suddenly live in a reverse universe, then that is exactly where I want to be. This place rules.

What kind of meal would one want to cook up in a radical, upside down world? Perhaps something to resemble the white night sky and black stars. Tee hee. My Reverse Universe Soup is a wink, a cosmic giggle, a salute to the new era of awesome. I have more optimism about 2013 than I can say – I feel big things a comin’ and my arms and heart open to them all!

I’ve made this soup twice now, because it is so simple and incredibly satisfying. First of all the texture is out-of-this-world velvety, and with every mouthful comes a little burst of lentil love. It feels filling too, without being overly heavy – certainly a welcome change after the holiday gorge-fest.

I think the most special aspect of this soup credits a technique I picked up several years ago; throwing a hard cheese rind into the broth while it is simmering. Although it sounds humble, this simple feat successfully transforms the soup’s flavour from delicious to stratospherically scrumptious. Really. If you remember to, save all of your hard cheese ends in a sealed plastic bag in the freezer and pull them out when you make soup. The liquid will pull all of the deep, umami flavour out of the cheese without actually adding any cheese. It’s kind of magical.

And you know what else is kind of magical? White vegetables. I realize that white foods in general have gotten a bad rap as of late, and for good reason. White bread, white rice, white pasta…these things seem to be less popular than they once were as we become more educated about the benefits of whole grain products and brightly coloured vegetables. However, there are some white foods that still belong to the whole foods family, boasting all kinds of nutritional benefits. This soup is an excellent combination of many white foods – celeriac, parsley root, onions, and garlic, that are not only delicious, but super health supportive. Here’s an idea of just how powerful these white foods are…

Parsley root – has been used for centuries to ease digestion, detoxify the body, and tonify the lungs and spleen. It is also helpful for those of you who are dieting (or cleansing!) after the holidays, as it has strong diuretic properties. Parsley is beneficial for urinary tract disorders, stones in the kidneys and bladder, nephritis, as well as for the adrenal and thyroid glands.
Nature provides us with what we need at just the right time of year: parsley root is an excellent blood-building food that is also warming to combat the winter chills – no coincidence there.
Key nutrients in parsley root include vitamin A, E, C, calcium, iron, potassium, phosphorous, and magnesium.

Celeriac – This delicious root vegetable is found growing underneath the common celery stalks that we are more familiar with. Of course celeriac has a celery-like flavour, but it is also nutty and remarkably creamy when pureed. Celeriac contains water-soluble fiber that lowers cholesterol and may reduce the risk of heart attack. It contains very few calories and is virtually fat free. Key nutrients in celeriac include calcium, iron, fiber, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium.

Onions – Members of the Allium family (like garlic), onions of all colours are rich in sulfur-containing compounds that are responsible for their pungent odors and for many of their health-promoting effects. Several servings of onion each week are sufficient to statistically lower your risk of some types of cancer.
Human studies have shown that onion can even help increase our bone density and may be of special benefit to women of menopausal age who are experiencing loss of bone density. In addition, there is evidence that women who have passed the age of menopause may be able to lower their risk of hip fracture through frequent consumption of onions. “Frequent” in this context means onion consumption on a daily basis! Pass the soup, please.

Garlic – The selenium in garlic can become an important part of our body’s antioxidant system. A cofactor of glutathione peroxidase (one of the body’s most important internally produced antioxidant enzymes), selenium also works with vitamin E in a number of vital antioxidant systems. Garlic is also rich in another trace mineral, manganese, which also functions as a team player in a number of other important antioxidant defense enzymes, for example, superoxide dismutase. Studies have found that in adults deficient in manganese, the level of HDL (the “good form” of cholesterol) is decreased.

If you do not like, or cannot find either celeriac (celery root) or parsley root veggies, you can use any white veg available at your grocer. Parsnip, Jerusalem artichoke/sunchoke, potato, cauliflower or even 
a type of white bean would work. This recipe really allows you cook to your own tastes, so get creative!  

If you want to make a vegan version of this soup, simply leave out the cheese rind. It is very delicious without, but add a dash of fresh lemon juice for tang. 

Reverse Universe Soup 
Serves 4
knob coconut oil or ghee
a couple pinches sea salt
2 medium (400g) onions
6 cloves garlic
4 bay leaves
3 (300g) parsley root
1 (600g) celeriac
4 cups / 1 liter vegetable broth
1 cup / 225ml water (if necessary)
1 hard cheese rind, preferably from sheep or goat’s milk (optional)
1/2 cup uncooked beluga (black) lentils (French Du Puy lentils will also work)

1. Soak lentils if possible, for up to 8 hours. Wash and drain lentils. Place in a pot, cover with water and bring to a boil. Reduce to simmer until tender but not mushy about 10-20 minutes (time varies according to lentil size and time soaked). Drain and rinse under cool water to halt cooking.
2. While the lentils are simmering, prepare and cook vegetables. Peel and chop onions, garlic, parsley root and celeriac.
3. Heat a knob of coconut oil or ghee in a large stockpot. Add onions and a couple pinches of salt, bay leaves, stir to coat and let fry for five minutes or so, until onions have softened. Add garlic, cook a couple minutes, followed by the chopped root veggies. Add the cheese rind if using, pour broth over, cover with a lid and bring to a simmer. Cook until the vegetables smash easily with a spoon.
4. Remove cheese rind and bay leaves from the pot. Transfer contents to a blender and puree until completely smooth. Add water to thin if necessary. Season to taste. Stir in cooked lentils. Serve hot with a drizzle of good quality olive or truffle oil.

As we jump into a new year, I wish you all an abundant, fulfilling, inspiring and ecstatic twelve months ahead.
From my beautiful universe to yours, always,
Sarah B.

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The latest cooking class video from the Luscious Indulgences Holiday series in Amsterdam is online if you want to have a look…

Healthy Happy: Cooking sessions with Sarah Britton of My New Roots from Healthy Happy on Vimeo.

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