Calalloo in Ginger-Lime Coconut Milk

Doesn't look like much, but this dish is swimming in flavour

Doesn’t look like much, but this dish is swimming in flavour

This isn’t exactly a camping recipe. As in, I didn’t actually make it when I was camping. But I wanted to, since it’s so easy and a healthy departure from the usual camping fare. If you’ve never really had Jamaican food, you’re in for a treat. Full of interesting pairings, like thyme and ginger, scotch bonnets and coconut milk, it’s at the same time very familiar and comforting, and totally unlike anything you’ve had before. Much of the food is very simple to prepare, too. Full of steamed greens and mashed tubers, beans and rice, there’s so much a vegan can borrow from the Jamaican diet.

Calalloo is a big, leafy green, otherwise known as amaranth leaves. You can substitute full leaf spinach, but be sure to add it just at the very end of cooking, as spinach is more fragile than calalloo. To make this camping-friendly, pre-mince your ginger in the food processor at home and just bring along a jar to add to recipes- this is what I do with the garlic, too. Also, you can substitute real Jamaican scotch bonnet hot sauce instead of using your own peppers. Unless you are very experienced with the dangers of using very hot peppers, I really do recommend sticking to a bottled sauce. Serve this alongside some simple rice with kidney beans or perhaps some mashed sweet potato. Add a tall glass of ginger beer and you’re set!

Calalloo in Ginger-Lime Coconut Milk

2 tbsp coconut oil
1 large bunch calalloo, about 2 lbs, ripped from stems and roughly chopped
1 sweet red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 of 1 seeded scotch bonnet, or scotch bonnet sauce, 1 tbsp (start with less and add to taste- be careful! It’s hot)
3 garlic cloves, minced (1 tbsp)
4-inch knob of ginger, minced (3 tbsp)
1 small bunch thyme stems, tied into a bundle (or 1 tsp dried thyme leaves)
1 can coconut milk
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 lime, juiced

1) Saute the pepper(s), garlic and ginger in the oil briefly to release flavours, about 1 minute

2) Add remaining ingredients, stir and cover about 5 minutes

3) Remove cover and cook longer if the greens aren’t fully softened. Calaloo does well with a good simmer, do don’t be afraid of over-cooking it. 

And now, gratuitous kitty picture! These guys are available for adoption!

Just look at those fluffy faces!

Just look at those fluffy faces!

Campfire Soup

Soup, boiling away happily

Too hungry to chop wood, just burn the log whole. Soup, boiling away happily.

Everything tastes better when you eat it outdoors. This is the simple truth captured in grill and patio furniture ads everywhere. Take a meal that would be way easier, more convenient, and likely more comfortable to prepare and consume indoors, relocate the whole shebang outdoors instead, and voila! You have a party. This is what you buy into when you go on a picnic, and when you purchase your Sims that 300, 000 Simoleon gazebo they’ve been eyeing. Eating outdoors makes food taste better. We believe it’s true, and so it is.  

This applies to camping, too. Except when you’re camping there are several, slightly less twee reasons for your appreciation for food. For one, you’re probably starving. Camping is a lot of work. Setting up tents, scrounging for kindling, chopping firewood, finding places to pee, getting in and out of layers constantly to keep warm enough without sweating (otherwise you’ll be cold at night). When you’re working hard without really realizing it (because you’re having so much fun!) you build up an appetite. Anything you cook will automatically taste better. All that fresh air helps too, as the more you are exposed to the elements, the more of your body’s resources are used up- you get thirsty and hungry faster outside. Lastly, you’re probably so busy that you’ve only started cooking when you’re hungry, not accounting for the extra time that fire building takes. As such, you’re only getting around to eating way past the point of being merely hungry, well into the murky and dangerous realm of being truly hangry

Then you add bad weather to the mix and things all get much, much worse. Building a fire in the rain is hard. Keeping a fire going in the rain long enough to boil a pot of water is extra hard, and sometimes impossible. Being wet and cold and hangry is a dangerous combination that I suggest you avoid under any circumstance, but which is nonetheless sometimes unavoidable in camping situations. When I was a Scout leader, in times like these, we’d pull out the Lipton’s Chicken Noodle Soup. Powdered chicken bouillon with extra salt added, flecks of dehydrated parsley, a distinct flavour of celery and small, quick-cooking wheat noodles. This salty, satisfying broth whipped up in five minutes flat, and, when smothered in saltines, was like mana from heaven for depleted, defeated campers. It wasn’t particularly nourishing, but when you’re camping, cold and hangry, it tastes like the most delicious thing you’ve ever put in your mouth. 

In coming up with this campfire soup, I was going for that same warm-you-to-the-bones, nourishing, wonderfully salty and savoury feeling. So, I started with my favourite salty, MSG-ridden seasoning, Vegeta. Go ahead and use something healthy if you must, but what you’re really going for here is a strong, salty chicken-style broth with flecks of parsley. I added a few real vegetables, small tofu cubes, and soup noodles, because I wanted it actually nourishing- not just tricking my body into thinking it was getting something worthwhile. Lastly, my new favourite addition to any brothy soup- matzoh. Matzoh holds it’s form in broth in a way that is satisfyingly chewy, almost like a noodle, and a far cry from the spongy, semi-dissolved mass that results from saltines left soaking too long. Without further ado, here is the recipe! It absolutely does not need to be made in cast iron, over a campfire, or eaten outdoors- but I promise you it won’t taste nearly as good otherwise.

Boil faster, darn it!

Boil faster, darn it!

Campfire Soup

1 block firm tofu, cut into 1cm/ 1/2 inch dice
1 large yellow onion, cut into large 1 inch dice
3 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 3 mm thick rounds
2 stalks of celery, cut into 3 mm thick slices
2 minced cloves garlic
1/2 package of soup noodles
Vegeta or bouillon of choice, added to taste
3 tbsp Earth Balance, or margarine of choice
pepper
matzoh

1) Over a steady fire, heat your 8 quart cast iron Dutch oven

2) Saute your onion in the margarine until just starting to turn golden. Add the remaining vegetables and saute until just beginning to soften, stirring occasionally

3) Fill the pot to 2 inches below the rim, put on the lid and bring to a boil

4) When boiling, add soup noodles, tofu and broth powder, starting with about half of what you think you’ll need

5) When noodles are cooked, adjust seasoning and add pepper.

6) Serve steaming mugfuls with broken matzoh to grateful campers

 

 

Black Bean, Collard Green and Sweet Potato Stew

This recipe has so much healthy packed in each bite it would take waaay too long to go in to all the details. However, aside from the ridiculously good-for-you-ness of it all, it’s also DELICIOUS. This is a soup you can seriously over eat on. Especially if you enjoy it with the Cornbread Biscuits from Vegan Brunch like I did. I subbed half the flour with whole wheat, worked perfectly. This makes a nice big pot, perfect for a week with snow storms and -30 degree weather and things like that that make trips to the grocery store unreasonable.

Black Bean, Collard Green and Sweet Potato Stew

2 yellow onions, diced
2 tbsp olive oil
1 lb orange-fleshed  sweet potato, chopped into bite-sized cubes
1 bunch collard greens, tough stems removed, torn into bite-sized pieces
1 cup corn kernels
2 cans black beans
1 can salt-free tomato puree or pieces
2 tsp minced chipotles in adoboe (more or less, depending on how hot you want it- mine were very hot, so start with less if you’re sensitive)
2 tsp roasted, crushed cumin (see note*)
1 tsp crushed fennel seeds
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1 tbsp Mexican oregano, or regular, if you can’t find it
1 tsp vegan Worcestershire sauce
1 vegan chicken bullion cube
Juice from 1/2 a lemon
To garnish, if you’re feeling fancy: cilantro, chopped avocado, a squeeze of lime, tortilla strips

Caramelize the onions slowly in the oil until golden brown, sweet, and fragrant. Add the sweet potatoes, cumin, and fennel, sautee for 5 more minutes until starting to brown. Add water to cover the vegetables, return to high heat and bring to a boil. Add all remaining ingredients except the collards. Reduce to a low simmer for at least 30 minutes. When all the flavours are deep and mellow and melded perfectly, add your collards and cook 10 more minutes, of until collards are wilted. Enjoy with cornbread biscuits, fancy toppings, or as is. It’s really delicious either way.