The sky is grey and trees once hanging heavy with snow are now bare due to high winds. Though mild temperatures persist, it feels more like a blizzardy day, one where you’d hunker down with a big bowl of stew and your fuzziest blanket. Ice pellets falling from the sky are in the immediate future and the wind gusts are proving a challenge even the strongest ravens. It’s time for comfort food.
Perfect for cold days, low days, sad days, days on the ski hill with the kids, days that are blustery, after a night of not sleeping well, or for days spent outside frolicking in the snow with good friends. Seriously, when is it not the right time for comfort food? Depending on whom you ask, comfort food can vary greatly. However, it’s usually associated with dishes someone you loved used to make. What they often have in common is some kind of starchy goodness such as rice, potatoes, pasta, or bread and some type of creamy texture.
Comfort food doesn’t always have to be unhealthy though, and with New Year’s resolutions falling like flies in late fall, this one won’t leave you with any guilt at all. Little potatoes, corn, and butternut squash all surrounded in a coconut milk broth and warming spices wrap you up in proverbial blanket of coziness. Bring on the ice pellets!
It’s not a surprise to those who have been following me for a while that I love the blend of exotic spices, here are just a few examples: Tunisian Spiced Salmon, Vegetable Tagine, Vietnamese Braised Chicken, and this Thai Butternut Squash Soup. Cinnamon, ginger, coriander, turmeric, and chilies make my world go round. I’ve included the spice blend used in this recipe (see below) but feel free to make a big batch and add it to your favorite tomato based stews instead of your ‘go to’ herbs for a flavor explosion.
Cheap fix for spices: Spices can be expensive. Especially if you’re buying them in the spice isle in the little glass bottles (you know the ones). I find I get the best deal if I buy these spices from the ethic or import isle. They typically come in bags and you’ll get 10 times more for a third the price. I also buy my dried cranberries, beans, lentils, and almonds there, too.
I hesitate noting a recipe as vegan. Vegan recipes scare the meat eaters away and the meat dishes scare the vegans away. The fact of the matter is that you can always add meat to a stew or soup … or any dish for that matter. Meat and cheese eaters out there – trust me, it’s delicious. This thick and hearty stew won’t leave you feeling like there is anything missing but if you have your heart set on meat, I recommend adding fish or chicken as a tasty addition. Fish can go in raw at the same time as the peppers. If using chicken, it can be cut into bite sized pieces and browned at the beginning with the onions. You may want to and an extra cup of stock as well. Continue with the recipe as usual.
Moroccan spice blend
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon each whole coriander and cumin crushed with mortar and pestle
1/2 teaspoon each cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice
Mix all the ingredients together.
Moroccan coconut corn chowder
2 tablespoons coconut oil (or substitute olive oil)
1 onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon finely fresh grated ginger
1 recipe of Moroccan spice blend (see above)
1 14-ounce can coconut milk
4 cups of vegetable stock (or substitute chicken stock)
2 cups baby potatoes cut into bite size pieces
2 cups of butternut squash cut into 1 inch pieces
2 red peppers, diced
2 cups of frozen corn kernels
1 1/2 cups of cooked chickpeas (or 1-15 oz/425 g can or 398ml can, drained and rinsed)
Parlsey or cilantro, chopped to garnish
1. In a large pot set over medium heat, melt the coconut oil. Add the onions and cooked until softened. Add the garlic, ginger, and the spices. Stir and cook until it becomes fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the coconut milk, stock, potatoes, and butternut squash.
2. Cook covered for 15 minutes. Add the peppers, corn and chickpeas.
3. Simmer uncovered for 15 minutes or until peppers are tender. Right before serving add the juice of 1/2 a lime (this is what makes the flavors of the chowder come to life).
4. Serve with a wedge of lime and chopped fresh cilantro or parsley.
Related post on The Restless Palate: Tunisian Spiced Tomato Chickpea Soup