Wednesday, January 22, 2014

"Soup's On" ~ A Book Review

A while back, I discovered the "30-Minute Vegan" series of cookbooks written by Mark Reinfeld. Reinfeld is one of the founders of Blossoming Lotus Restaurant, the author of "Vegan Fusion World Cuisine," and definitely has a good culinary track record. As it turned out, I really enjoyed his 30MV "Taste of Europe" and "Taste of the East" cookbooks a lot. The recipes really are quick and tasty!

So, when I saw that the next book in the 30MV series was going to be a soup book, I got right to work ordering myself a copy. It's called "Soup's On" and it has different sections for Veggie-Based Soups, Beans and Legumes Soups, Creamy and Rich Soups and Raw Soups. There's also a cool section at the end with lots of recipes for interesting soup garnishes like croutons, vegan creme fraiche, caramelized onions, etc.

The thing is, I really love soup. It's yummy and hot and good for the soul. Plus, it's usually not that much work. Once you get everything chopped and simmering, you can wash the dishes or go goof off on the internet until you hear the kitchen timer ring. Soup is versatile and forgiving if you want to leave something out, make a substitution, or switch up the spices. It's also usually pretty easy to keep soup low-cal, nutritious, and full of flavor all at once. And, you can make a lot and have some left over for lunch the next day. Those are all my favorite things about soup.

The first recipe I made was the Indian Mulligatawny soup - which was a huge hit with both of us. It's chock full of veggies and Indian spices. The recipe called for apple, but I don't usually end up liking soups with apple in them, so I used turnips instead. And, I used light coconut milk instead of the soy creamer or full-fat coconut milk. The soup has red lentils and white rice cooked in with the veggies and seasonings, and the result is a thick stew with chunks of veggies and lots of flavor. I especially loved the bright balance from the tamarind paste and fresh lemon juice. I'll definitely make this one again!

One night, out of the blue, Mr Vegan Eats & Treats asked if he could help me cook dinner and learn his way around the kitchen. Whoa. I wanted to work with an easy recipe, so as not to overwhelm our aspiring chef...

We made the Creamy Fire-Roasted Tomato Soup with Dill. It was so fun cooking together! The soup was thick and super rich. It's cooked with dried mushrooms, and later blended up. We both prefer a little more texture in our soups, so we just fished out the mushrooms, and pureed them with about half of the soup, and left the other half chunky. This soup was very good, but it was an Umami Extraveganza! So rich to the point of being almost too much. Mr VE&T had his with a big bowl of white rice, and that was a great combo. The next day I made a huge batch of steamed broccoli and mixed it up with the leftover soup and that was also very good. Basically, it just needs something to help cut all that umami intensity!

Another night (back on my own again in the kitchen), I made the Himalayan Dal with Curried Chickpeas. Just the name of this recipe pretty much meant I was going to like it, and I did. The chickpeas are cooked separately and then added in when the soup is ready. The soup was full of warm spices had a broth base - but also had red lentils and quite a few veggies to add more substance to the final product. As promised, it was quick, easy and delicious!

The last recipe I tried (so far!) was Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Red Cabbage Soup. Pretty much every morning, Mr VE&T asks me "what's for dinner tonight?" When I told him I was going to make this soup, he was quite skeptical. "That sounds crazy!" Well, the soup was actually not crazy at all, and we both devoured it. The sprouts were roasted first, with some light seasoning, then added to the soup along with many other veggies and some great spices (caraway seeds and fresh dill!) and the end result was fantastic and full of harmonious flavors. As you can see it was really packed with stuff - more like a stew than a soup, really.

Although I just made these recipes "as-is," the author also gives suggested garnishes for pretty much every recipe. For example, he suggested topping the Brussels Sprouts soup with caramelized onions and crumbled tempeh bacon (those recipes are in the back of the book.) Those ideas sound great - I was just keeping my life simple, but I look forward to trying his garnish suggestions.

Another thing I really appreciate about this book is that at the end of pretty much every recipe is a list of possible variations such as veggies you can add or substitute, how to make the soup gluten-free, how to add more flavor, and on and on. The ideas are clear and helpful.

I still have so many recipes from this book that I'm looking forward to trying. Here are a few:
~ Broiled Zucchini Soup with Saffron
~ Ratatouille Stew with Grilled Broccoli Rabe
~ Andean Inca Stew with Quinoa
~ Wonton Soup
~ Israeli Couscous Soup with Sun-Dried Tomatoes
~ Creamy Parsnip Soup with Smoked Cherry Tomatoes
and the list just goes on and on!

So, if you like soup too, I can definitely recommend this book! And if you get it, let me know which recipes you try and which recipes you love so I can be sure to try them. Maybe Mr. VE&T will even help me cook again... he's mentioned it a few times!


  1. Darnit, I really want that book now! I love that you love the 30 minute books. I think they are really great too. I like that the recipes are simple, the ingredients are real, but the flavour combinations are really thoughtful so nothing tastes explicitly like a "fast" meal.

    How cute that Mr. VE&T is showing interest in the kitchen! People who don't cook regularly are fascinating to watch in the kitchen...Jay comes up with all sorts of creative flourishes that seem crazy to me at the time but usually end up really cool/delicious! Now you have to get the furry friends choppin'.

  2. The book sure sounds good. I have the original 30-minute, and the Taste of the East but for some reason I've never used them much. Maybe it's because they don't have many pictures and I'm a such a visual person. Just reading your review and seeing the pictures makes me want to get the soup book. I love soup.

  3. I love the sound of this book. I hadn't heard of it before but Kiersten of Oh My Veggies wrote about it a few days ago too.
    I think I'm like Andrea above and pictures really motivate me to cook from a book so my copy of 30-minute vegan hasn't seen much action. A shame because what I have made has been great. Your pictures are certainly edging me over towards Amazon now though....

  4. This is an awesome cookbook, I'm working on a review of it myself. I made different recipes but the ones you tried look great too. And it's so nice the Mr wanted to help out. :-)

  5. Your photos are gorgeous! I love this book and possibly the only way it could be improved would be with more pretty photos. All the soups I have made so far have been delicious. I reviewed the ones I have tried here:

  6. Love the soups...yummy.


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