Kashmir Vegetable Soup from Fresh

Imagine you’re a famous singer, on tour with your band. You travel from town to town, venue to venue, for weeks on end. The one thing you can count on when you get to each destination is that they have your rider: a list of things you, as the artist, demands as part of the performance contract. You can check out really wacky ones from the uber famous over at The Smoking Gun.

Last week, one artist playing at the theatre I work at part time left behind an entire container of veggies and dip. Must have been too busy chasing those two whole chickens with all that beer and wine, eh boys? Because they were untouched, I decided to take the veggies home and see what I could to with the baby carrots, celery, cauliflower, and broccoli once I threw out that pasty white dip. After scanning my favourite cookbooks, I found an amazing recipe that used all of those things. Convenient or what?

Fresh at home to the rescue

I really miss having a Fresh to go to next door for lunch every day!  I wasn’t vegan when I lived and worked in Toronto, but I absolutely loved Fresh on Spadina and went there a few times a week. Usually for The Beach rice bowl, but every once in a while I’d try something new. Colour me stupidly happy when they started publishing cookbooks! I have all three now and am starting to collect the ingredients and work my way through them all.

Kashmir Vegetable Soup | Fresh at Home | Ruth Tal Brown/Jennifer Houston | page 35

Serves 4 to 6

Kashmir Vegetable Soup from "Fresh at Home"

This thick, warm and spicy soup is perfect for the fall. It’s also a great way to clear out your fridge in case you don’t have wasteful singing groups to supply you.  Two wee changes: I didn’t have ground coriander and I’m not much of a fan of it, so I used basil and a lemon instead. I also used quinoa flour because it’s what I had on hand, but next time I’d either use half as much or cut it out altogether. It really got quite thick on its own with the lentils.


4 tbps olive oil
2 cooking onions, diced
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 stalk celery, finely diced
1 carrot, peeled and finely diced [or a bunch of diced baby carrots]
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp ground coriander [or 1 tbsp basil and the juice and rind of 1 small lemon]
1 tsp ground red chili flakes
1 tbsp curry powder
1 cup red lentils
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 cup light spelt flour [I used quinoa flour and would use less or leave it out next time]
1 cup canned crushed tomatoes
8 cups Roasted Vegetable Stock [their recipe is included in the book; I used organic veggie stock and a bit of water]
1 cup broccoli, cut into small florets
1 cup cauliflower, cut into small florets
Pinch sea salt


1. Heat oil in a pot over medium heat.

2. Stir in onions, garlic, celery and carrot. Cook for 1 minute to coat vegetables in oil.

3. Stir in cinnamon, coriander (or substitutes), red chili flakes and curry powder. Cook for 1 minute.

4. Add lentils, tomato paste and flour (if using). Stir for a couple of minutes to cook the flour.

5. Add crushed tomatoes, then vegetable stock. Stir constantly to avoid lumps.

6. Cook about 15 minutes. When lentils are soft and nearly cooked, add broccoli and cauliflower. Cook another 15 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Add salt to taste.

7. Remove from heat and serve.

The batch I made on Sunday is fabulous and is keeping very well, though I’m pretty sure it won’t see the weekend. It’s too good! And it goes really well with the Mock Tuna Salad I’ll tell you about tomorrow.


I just turned 40. No, it’s ok, I love it! Funny how everyone I’ve talked to about it asks me how I feel about turning the “big 4-0”. Really? I’m relieved. For some reason, it feels like the pressure is off.

What pressure? Oh, let’s see. I’m the youngest and only girl in a Catholic Italian family. My parents, both born in Italy, come from huge families, which means I have dozens of cousins. I’m unmarried, no kids. Yes, I’m straight, despite what the old biddies at church are probably saying. I stopped going to church over a year ago anyway, so who cares? I have a good job, my own house and car, and an adorable cat. Yes, just one; no crazy cat lady am I.

Given the demographics, you may imagine what growing up in that environment has been like until now. Although I never really got the “So, why aren’t you married yet?” drilling from my relatives, it’s always felt a bit implied. Then again, they may have already assumed an answer based on one thing: I’ve been chubby all my life. Despite my best efforts, all I seem to lose is sweat and patience.

So, with the mental chains that turning 40 seems to have released, I’ve embarked on a new adventure. Six months ago, I made the switch to being a vegetarian. I’d tried it before, but this time I was a lot more informed. It started when I watched the film Earthlings, which I think everyone should see. It’s free, online. Go now, and then come back. It’s ok, I’ll wait.

It leaves quite an impression, doesn’t it? That was enough to get me started, but it was just the first step for me. I’m an avid researcher, so I need to know all sides to a story before I commit to anything. Even paint colours for my house, but that’s another story.

I read lots of books on health and diet, plant-based programs, cookbooks and more. I saw other movies: Forks Over Knives, Food Inc, The Cove. I read the stories of real people who made amazing changes in their lives. I read about vegan athletes, even triathletes. With all that evidence and several flagged cookbooks in hand, I decided to jump in and go full herbivore.

That’s where this blog comes in. I’ve always been interested in cooking, though I don’t have a lot of natural-born skills. Geez, my mom did all the cooking, ok? I wouldn’t DREAM of touching her stove when I was growing up unless she asked me to stir the sauce or take something out of the oven to serve the menfolk their dinner.

Here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to try all these vegan recipes I’ve collected; all the links I’ve saved, all the books I’ve filled with flags and whatever you want to send me. I’ll document my experiences, tell you what I would do differently and hopefully we’ll discover together how easy it is to cook and live in a way that’s healthier for body, mind, soul and planet.