I was first introduced to “vegan stew”, or any “vegan” food for that matter, a few years ago at The Penduluum cafe on UBC (university of British Columbia) campus. Prior to this introduction, I had heard of vegan food and tried it- but it wasn’t in a conscious, active manner. I knew what vegan meant, but I didn’t really think about it in terms of food and cooking and what goes into it. I didn’t allow it in, it didn’t truly impact me. Before finding the Penduluum and discovering their magical display of freshly made salads & other types of dishes- I generally would just eat at home before class. Or, to be honest- I would eat some fruit, work out 2 times a day- and then eat a salad or canned soup for dinner. So, I was quite severely malnourished for a number of years! And I used to consider myself really healthy!
A great example of how healthy is a term that is incredibly relative and subjective- especially with all of those mixed & conflicting messages out there. Now a days, I think I do have a pretty solid perception of health, what is considered healthy and wellness. However, it has taken me years of self-discovery, pain, trial & error and becoming a Holistic Nutritionist myself. So, it’s not the easiest thing to figure out with all the crap out there.
Back to the stew! First of all- do you know what the difference is between a stew, soup & casserole? If your answer is “no”, fear not! Until fairly recently, I was unsure of the exact difference between a stew and a casserole. So, a stew is generally a dish containing vegetables (and traditionally meats too), along with a thick broth made from a combination of a stewing liquid (broth or water) and the natural juices of the food being stewed. A soup is more simply a combination of veg (& meat, fish, seafood) cooked in a liquid. On the other hand- a casserole is usually cooked in the oven and the concept behind it is low & slow (aka lower temp, slower, longer cooking time).
When I started going to the Penduluum cafe @ UBC to meet my beautiful friends Katrina Bell & Paulina Kisielevska for lunch- this is when I think my taste buds started to explore the world of health, nutrition and good whole foods. Not to say that I didn’t know about it all before- but I still had quite the fear of food from my eating disorder. So, exploring new flavours, especially really full and powerful flavours- was difficult for me. Anything new was dangerous territory and would give me extreme anxiety. However, for some reason, when I started eating at The Penduluum- I started to feel safe around some of these dishes. I felt OK to eat during lunch break, without the anxiety that I would have to run to the gym to work it off immediately. This was a turning point for me. Don’t get me wrong- the Penduluum had their fair share of unhealthy, indulgent foods too! Lots of gluten, cheese, sugar & meat. The point is that they had options. That, and there was a bit of a grass-roots, community feeling about it.
The two dishes that stole my heart at the Penduluum was the Vegan Stew and the Hominy Salad. I would get half orders of these two meals every Tuesday & Thursday. It was a lovely routine I really fell in love with. To the point that I even made a few trips down to UBC after graduating, just to get a few more bites of those heart-warming dishes! I remember even traveling to the local Whole Foods Market and Choices- to find Hominy, so that I could re-create it at home. It was a pretty simple salad, with: hominy, cilantro, oil, diced onion, tomato, cucumber and garlic. The vegan stew though. There is something special in there. It’s been on my mind ever since!
Finally, years after- when I returned home from work yesterday I realized it was time to attempt it’s re-creation! I have to say, it is almost exactly the same. I’ll admit, I think the vegan stew at the Penduluum was a bit sweeter- and I wonder if they make their own tomato sougo ahead of time with beautiful, sweet, summer heirloom tomatoes. & I think they may add a decent amount of sugar. Note: tomato sougo is a type of fresh tomato sauce. However, I have the fondest memories of this vegan stew and am really happy to share with you my version of this special dish!
- 1 yellow onion, diced
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 carrots, diced
- 2 zucchinis, diced
- 2 cups of chickpeas
- 1 red bell pepper
- 2 tablespoons coconut oil
- 2 cups of filtered water
- 4 roma tomatoes
- 1 can stewed tomatoes
- 1 jalapeno, diced
- 1 sweet potato
- 2 tablespoons cumin
- 2 tablespoons smoked paprika
- 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
- 1 tablespoon coriander
- sea salt & black pepper to taste
- 2-3 pitted medjool dates, chopped
- Begin by onion, carrots, jalapeno & garlic in coconut oil
- add your spices: cumin, paprika, turmeric, coriander- and allow them to sweat with your mirapoix
- Add your chopped potatoes, allow them to sautee for 5 minutes
- Add your chickpeas & fresh tomatoes, cook for 3-5 minutes
- Add your canned tomatoes (if you are using canned tomatoes)
- Add zucchini, red bell pepper & chopped dates- season with pepper & sea salt
- Cover and cook for 20-30 minutes
- Serve with brown rice, quinoa or eat on it’s own! It’s very hearty already. I served it on top of a bed of fresh spinach with a mixture of brown basmati rice & red quinoa!
- Tip: this recipe will make enough for about 5 portions so, perfect for left-overs or to freeze!
Information on soup, stew & casserole obtained from: http://homecooking.about.com/library/weekly/blsoupgloss.htm