Light, airy vegan food is great and everything, but let's be real: sometimes you want something rich. Something that sticks to your bones. Something that is reminiscent of something loaded with dairy and eggs and stuff like that but without all the stuff like that. This soup TOTALLY fits the bill. Wild rice and vegetables in a creamy, thick cashew broth? Heck yes this soup sticks to your bones.
I waxed philosophical about how awesome wild rice is in this post, and while I enjoy eating wild rice in any number of ways, I adore wild rice in soup most of all. Wild rice soup is a classic here in the upper Midwest - it appears on restaurant menus all over the place. There are two main variations, one with a brothy base, and one with a creamy, milky thick base. Both include any combination of wild rice, onions, water chestnuts, almonds, carrots, celery, chicken. The cream based broth is the most common, which is unfortunate, because as delicious and rich as it is, it does not sit quite right with me. Finding broth-based wild rice soups out at restaurants is a little hard - the Loon Cafe in Minneapolis has a great one. For those of you that can handle heavy cream and might be coming through the Minneapolis area, Hell's Kitchen makes a breakfast porridge out of wild rice, cream, maple syrup, blueberries and cranberries, and hazelnuts. It is supposed to be completely and totally epic, my friend Peter swears by this porridge. I think the porridge is actually gluten-free (the restaurant is not), and the rest of their menu is also really nice.
Anyway, I decided I wanted a creamy wild rice soup. Something thick. Something rich. Something bone adhering. Rice milk wouldn't cut it, coconut milk was not the right flavor. So, I decided on cashews. Raw cashews, once soaked and blended, take on the most amazingly rich, creamy consistency. And once heated, the cashew cream actually thickens - amazing - just like dairy milk or cream. I've been wanting to try using cashews as a soup thickener for a while, so this was the perfect opportunity.
I'm totally impressed with this spontaneous soup adventure. I made it yesterday afternoon and ate it for dinner tonight; the flavors had time to meld and it was awesome. I used cooked wild rice that I cooked in advance in my rice cooker, rather than trying to cook it in the pot with the vegetables and all that. I think it just makes it easier than trying to time everything just right. So, make sure to leave time to soak and cook your rice, and soak your cashews, if you are going to try this recipe out. It is worth the pre-planning! I think that even your non-vegan friends and family will think it is awesome. Serve with a big salad and dig in. I ate my inaugural bowl with a salad of braised celery and water chestnuts over watercress, and it was awfully good.
CREAMY CASHEW WILD RICE SOUP
yield: 6 servings
- 3 c cooked wild rice
- 2 c celery, sliced
- 2 medium carrots, peeled and sliced
- 1/4 onion, finely diced
- 1 c celeriac, peeled and diced
- 1/4 c fresh parsley, minced
- 1 T dry tarragon
- optional: itty bitty dash of nutmeg
- sea salt or Herbamare to taste
- fresh cracked pepper to taste.
- 1-2 T extra virgin olive oil
- 6 c stock or water, plus additional if needed
- 1/2 c raw unsalted cashews
- 1/2 c water + water for soaking
- optional: diced mushrooms (I didn't add them, but they would be delicious!!!)
- optional: minced green onion and chopped cashews for garnish
In advance: Soak cashews in fresh water for 4-6 hours. Cashews will soften and start to sprout! You must soak them in order to get the right texture once blended.
In large stockpot, warm olive oil, Saute onion and celery until soft, add carrot and celeriac, and saute another few minutes until soft. Add 6 cups stock, and bring to boil, then reduce to a simmer.
Drain soaked cashews, then place in blender (narrow bowl if using immersion blender) with 1/2 c fresh water. Blend until completely smooth and thick.
Add 3 c cooked wild rice, tarragon, and cashew cream to the stock and vegetables. Simmer on low until vegetables are soft, approximately 45 minutes, stirring occassionally to prevent sticking, and adding more stock or water as necessary. Add fresh parsely, and salt and pepper to taste, and simmer another couple of minutes to flavor through. Soup will continue to thicken as it cools; thin with more water or broth as necessary.