Fig Bread and Restorative Soup
January 6, 2008
It was all quiet on the DDD front yesterday, as I’m both preparing to return to school (gak!) tomorrow, and am still fighting off a weird viral thingie. So with my sinuses throbbing, I didn’t much feel like being creative in the kitchen. Woke up feeling very cold, only to discover that someone had stolen the blanket from the bed and was hogging it! (“Sorry, Mum, but since you won’t let me up there, I have to get in on the act somehow. Sheesh, haven’t you heard of the Family Bed?”)
Well, after catching up on some of my own blog reading, I was inspired by Veggie Girl’s recent baking marathon to get at it myself. In another recent post, she had mentioned the fantastic cookbook by Ellen Abraham, Simple Treats, a book I own and love, but had left, forlorn and forgotten, on the bookshelf for the past while. With my memory jogged, I set about finding something from the book to bake.
I adore freshly baked muffins or scones for breakfast, and was in the mood for something like that. I also had a bag of dried figs that have been waiting on the shelf for just such an occasion, so searched for something and came up with Ellen’s Walnut-Fig Bread. The recipe is straightforward and I love the fact that she uses barley flour for a change from spelt, so I dug right in. Rather than bake the bread in a loaf pan, I opted for a 9 x 9 inch square so we could cut it in cubes, sort of like a cornbread (not sure why; just in the mood!). The square pan cut the baking time almost in half, but other than that, I followed the recipe exactly.
Well, was it ever delicious! Dense, moist, with the crackly seeds and sweet chewiness of the figs dotted throughout, plus a hint of cinnamon–perfect for a cold winter’s morning with a dollop of almond butter and a steaming cup of green tea. My HH, reluctant to try it at first, ended up ready to devour the whole thing and ate three squares in quick succession, even after having had a full breakfast! (And no, despite my many references to how much he eats, my HH is NOT overweight, and has never had a weight problem. Is that warped, or what?).
Most of the time, I find baking to be therapeutic and soothing. Unfortunately, the effort this time pretty much wiped me out, and I spent the remainder of the day just reading and
procrastinating attempting to do some course prep. By the time dinner rolled around, I abandoned my original, more ambitious, plans for pasta and focused instead on some kind of quick but warming and nutritious soup to make.
To me, soup is a saviour in the kitchen, since you can basically throw any and all vegetables–whether fresh or even a little past their prime–into a pot, boil away, and you’ve got something hot, yummy, and good for you. Even when the combination is otherwise less than dazzling, just pour the whole mess in the blender, add a splash of soymilk and/or a previously boiled potato for creaminess, and you’ve got a great potage.
Last night, I just combined whatever bland winter veggies we had on hand. I began by sauteing an onion, some chopped garlic, sliced celery, and sliced carrots. While those were softening up, I chopped some broccoli and a Yukon Gold potato. To the pot, I added some salt, pepper, fresh parsley, dill, and just a pinch of smoked paprika along with about 6 cups of water. The mixture was still looking a little pallid, so I ramped it up a bit with a teaspoon of instant veggie broth powder, a squirt of ketchup (we had no tomato in the house, and it needed something) and a splash of Bragg’s. By then, its appearance had perked up a bit, so I tossed in the broccoli and potatoes an set it simmering.
But something was still missing. . . . something to add the chewy density you’d get with pasta, something to give it a little more oomph. . . .ah! It hit me: dumplings! I have a wonderful recipe for a curried vegetable stew with dumplings, so figured I could just wing it and create something similar to go with my veggie soup. For variety and flavor, I settled on fresh herbed dumplings: in a bowl, I mixed about a cup of oat flour with chopped fresh cilantro, salt, thyme, and some ground mustard. I rubbed in about a tablespoon of coconut butter, then splashed about 4 tablespoons of soymilk into the bowl, tossed with a fork until it came together, and rolled little balls that I placed gingerly on top of the simmering soup, where they bobbed gently (covered) for about 10 minutes. This is the end result:
It turned out to be quite satisfying, with a hearty flavor and big chunks of the veggies. The dumplings provided a contrast in consistency, light and tender on the inside with a springy bite.
After slurping up a couple of bowls, I was feeling a little better and was able to spend the rest of the evening relaxing with my HH and Girls. I guess Chaser could tell I wasn’t feeling up to par, as she didn’t even attempt to steal the covers at night, but just let me sleep.
(“I thought I’d give you a break, Mum, since you were under the weather. But now that it’s morning, how about some of that fig bread?”)