January is a time for healthy eating and making a fresh start. This winter vegetable soup utilizes the best produce of the season, root vegetables, bringing some much-needed color and warmth to these dark January days.
Looking around the markets this time of year, the rustic root vegetables take center stage. Piled high in all its muddy glory, I couldn’t resist picking some up to create a warm hearty meal. The bonus is that these fresh vegetables are great for us. The plants have spent the summer months basking in the sun and soaking up all the nutrients from the soil, storing it in their roots for the winter. Now is the time for us to dig them up and enjoy the fruits of their labor.
I made some super-easy gluten-free rolls to accompany the soup. These rise in the oven, so there’s no waiting around for hours for them to proof. This makes them a little denser than your normal roll and is ideal for dipping into the soup.
Having gluten-free rolls with the soup makes the entire dish very good for inflammation sufferers. There is no gluten to do any harm, and the vegetables are softened and blended so that they are very easy to digest. For these rolls, I replaced refined sugar with honey, which is much healthier and all-natural.
Start With the Base
I start by preparing the vegetables. Leeks and celery are in season in many parts of the world, so I suggest using the whole “mirepoix.” This is the French word for diced onion (or leeks), carrot and celery, which is the classic base for soups and stocks. This adds a great fresh flavor but, if you want to forgo this step, use onion or leeks and add vegetable stock instead of water later on in the recipe.
It’s important to sweat the vegetables slowly so as not to color them, which will ruin the bright orange look of the final soup and contribute bitter flavors that we don’t want. Once they are softened, which will take about 10 minutes, add the root vegetables and saute them to get them going. Then, add the water and, once everything is soft, blend the soup. It’s important not to cook the soup for too long. The longer the vegetables cook, the more nutrients and flavor will be lost in the vapor rising from the pot.
I season the soup once it is blended so I can get the flavor balance perfect. If it needs a little bit of acidity, you can add some vinegar or lemon juice at the last minute. However, I found that this wasn’t necessary. The consistency can also be adjusted at this stage by adding more water if the soup is too thick. It shouldn’t be too thin if the instructions are followed. If so, more root vegetables can be cooked separately and then blended in to thicken it up.
I added the pumpkin seeds to this recipe as they give a lovely crunch in contrast to the creamy soup. Toasting them improves the crunch and the flavor, adding a nutty note that works well with the fresh flavor from the chives.
A New Twist on Rolls
Making the rolls takes a little bit of time and effort but is worth it. I’m sure you’ll agree when you pull the warm rolls out of the oven and experience that fresh-baked aroma. I sprinkled sesame seeds on top for a bit of extra flavor and because it makes them look great too. These could be substituted for other seeds or crushed nuts.
I hope you find the nutritional information useful. The nutritional content will vary based on the vegetables and other ingredients used, but this provides a good guide. I’ve used olive oil rather than butter in the recipe as this is lower in saturated fat and is much better for inflammation sufferers, although animal fats are certainly still better for us than processed fats like margarine.
The soup serves two generously, and the recipe makes 12 rolls, so there should be some left to snack on later. I hope you enjoy this warming winter soup and have a healthy and happy start to the new year.
For the Soup
- 1 onion
- 1 celery stalk
- 1 leek
- 1 carrot
- 1 butternut squash
- 1 sweet potato
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- Water or vegetable broth (to cover)
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 handful chives, minced
- 1 handful pumpkin seeds
- Salt, to taste
- Ground black pepper, to taste
- Peel the carrot and onion and wash the celery and leek. Dice the vegetables and add them to a large pot.
- Sweat the vegetables in the olive oil until they are softened.
- Peel and chop the squash and sweet potato into rough cubes. Add them to the pan and saute for a couple of minutes.
- Add the bay leaf. Then, add enough water or vegetable broth to cover the vegetables on medium-high heat. Bring to a gentle boil, then reduce heat to medium. Simmer for 10 minutes or until the root vegetables are soft all the way through.
- Meanwhile, toast the pumpkin seeds in a skillet on medium-high heat. Saute or stir them frequently so that they don’t burn until evenly toasted.
- Take the soup off the heat, remove the bay leaf, and blend in a food processor or blender or with a stick blender until smooth.
- Season with salt and black pepper and return to low heat for a couple of minutes. If you need to add more water or more vegetables to change the consistency, do this now.
- Serve in bowls with the chives and pumpkin seeds sprinkled on top.
Total time: 40 minutes Prep time: 10 minutes Cook time: 30 minutes
For the Rolls
- 3 1/2 cups gluten-free bread flour
- 3 teaspoons instant yeast
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3 tablespoons honey
- 1 cup warm water (about 95 degrees Fahrenheit), plus 1 tablespoon
- 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 eggs
- 1 handful sesame seeds
- Preheat the oven to 350 F.
- Mix the yeast with a small amount of the warm water to activate it.
- Mix the flour and salt in a large bowl. Add the yeast, water, honey, butter and 1 egg and mix well by hand or in a mixer with a dough hook attached until fully combined.
- Knead the dough for 5 minutes. If doing this by hand, knead it on a lightly floured, clean work surface. The dough should come together and feel smooth.
- Place the dough in a clean bowl, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 10 minutes. This will make the dough easier to work with.
- Once it has firmed up, tip the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and divide it into 12 pieces. You can use a dough scraper or a sharp knife.
- Roll each piece against the work surface with the palm of your hand in a circular motion until it comes together into a tight ball.
- Place the rolls onto a baking tray lined with oiled baking parchment. Mix the remaining egg in a bowl with a tablespoon of water. Brush the tops of the rolls with the egg wash and sprinkle the tops with the sesame seeds.
- Place in the oven for around 20 minutes or until golden brown and baked through.
MAKES 12 rolls
Total time: 35 minutes Prep time: 15 minutes Cook time: 20 minutes
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Rick Kaselj, MS