I have never been a happy with having to follow a recipe!
When I learned to make Chinese food from the TV Show Wok with Yan, many years ago, it didn’t take long to figure out that the key to his recipes were the 5 seasoning ingredients that went in to them.
Each recipe had one or two or even three of the basic seasonings in varying amounts and that was what “made” the dishes.
Now that I am focusing on a raw food diet I am finding that, in the same way, there are certain core ingredients that “make” great raw dishes. In particular, there are core ingredients that make great raw soups, and I am going to tell you about them.
1) Nuts and Seeds – I think if nuts as the “cream” for raw soups. There are several that you can use but the main ones, in my mind are raw almonds and cashews. You can also use sunflower seeds, filberts, macadamia nuts, even pistachios or pumpkin seeds.
I like to keep the second list for speciality soups where you want the flavour of the nuts to be prominent, while using the almonds and cashews for most others.
The most important thing to remember when using the raw nuts in soups is that you must soak them in water first. First the richness of the nuts is easier to digest after they have been soaked and second you won’t end up with little grainy nut chunks in your soup.
Soak and drain the nuts – about a half to ¾ of a cup for a blender full of soup – and process them with a cup to a cup and a half of water before you add any other ingredients.
I use cashews if I want a very rich and creamy soup and almonds, with the brown skins rubbed off, for a more neutral base.
2) Avocados – This is the vegetable alternative to nuts or seeds when you want to make a creamy soup. Though don’t be afraid to use both in the same recipe. You will be surprised how little of the actual avocado taste remains in the final product. It creates a hearty and filling soup.
3) Garlic – Be gentle here, you want to keep your non-raw friends. My raw food eating son lived with us for a summer a couple of years ago and honestly I had to ban garlic from the house.
Something about whirring up a whole mess of garlic in a blender with other things that permeates even the paint on the walls.
But a little goes a long way and helps to bring various flavours together. My son tried to sell me on the fact that it is so healthy to eat lots of raw garlic, but it didn’t work.
4) Onion – Ok, I have to be honest here, my spouse has basically given me the same lecture as I gave my son only with regards to onions. I absolutely love them! For raw soups, though, I usually stick to green onions or maybe a small shallot or two.
5) Lemon or Lime Juice – These brighten up any dish, although again, just use a small amount. The juice of half a lemon or lime cuts the sweetness of veggies like peppers or carrots, without overpowering them as the highlighted flavour.
6) Celtic Sea Salt – This is basic and definitely ‘to taste’.
7) Pepper(s) – All Kinds! – The first raw soup I ever made was a delicious red pepper soup. I’ve since made several versions of it, switching nuts, including or excluding avocado, spicy and sweet versions. I love the color the bright red peppers give and the compliments I get from my guests when they taste the soups.
When I want spicy, cayenne is a staple but if I can get them, I like to use small amounts of fresh diced jalapeños, or chilli peppers.
8) Tomatoes – Don’t use these in every soup. The one thing I love about tomatoes is they taste familiar. For people who are just starting a raw foods diet, this is an important factor. Switching to raw food from a traditional western diet can feel like you have moved to a whole different country and culture. A little familiarity helps you feel at home.
9) Green Herbs – Parsley doesn’t make a big difference in flavour, but it does for nutrition. If you want to taste the green you have to add quite a bit or use a more pungent green like cilantro. Other herbs like basil, sage and rosemary are great in small quantities, and ideally fresh picked, rather than dried.
10) Root and Squash Family Vegetables – All Kinds! – Its fall now and root vegetables are being included in just about every featured recipe in every blog or raw food magazine article.
It’s great when you can find different varieties. Some are better than others though. I remember one fall buying a pie pumpkin and absolutely loving it. Then a month or so later I bought one around Halloween and it was totally tasteless.
Beets are great, you can make raw borscht and process some macadamia or cashew nuts on the side with some hemp oil, a few raw dates and a bit of orange juice and have your own Nut Crème for a garnish.
If you want to use more solid roots like carrots, you are probably want to juice them and use the juice as your base or you will, like when using nuts that haven’t been soaked have a bit of a chewy, grainy soup.
Beyond these ten categories of ingredients, the sky is the limit. Organic citrus provides a strong flavour base, while celery and cucumber will lighten a soup up. Go ahead, mix and match. If you hit on a real winner, let me know. I’m always willing to learn and to enjoy the best raw soup ever!
And don’t forget to RAW ON!
Denise L. Norman