Grah – Balkan Bean Stew

Grah - Balkan Bean Stew - Croatian, Serbian, Bosnian - The Lotus and the Artichoke

When two of my good friends announced they’d be moving to Herceg Novi, Montenegro for several months this year, I was excited for them and thrilled at the opportunity to visit them in a new part of world. After they settled in, started with the language, and began making local friends, I booked my flight to Dubrovnik. I ordered a Serbo-Croatian phrasebook and I started reading about cultural and culinary traditions, politics, and the history of the region. My friends arranged for me to rent a studio apartment in their building, with a balcony overlooking the Bay of Kotor and the Adriatic Sea. For our visit to Dubrovnik, they booked a furnished flat with Rock Palace Apartments, and we got a kitschy and fun Jimi Hendrix themed place for a few days on the hillside overlooking the old city.

My biggest supporter of The Lotus and the Artichoke – Vegan Cookbook Kickstarter project made an amazing contribution which made the entire trip possible! For the reward, I’d signed up to visit a new place and bring back recipes based on the food there, plus lots of photography and artwork. So, along with briefly exploring two new countries with my location independent friends Ryan and Angela (of Jets Like Taxis), I got to sample and learn about traditional Balkan food. This included Croatian, Montenegrin, Serbian, and Bosnian culinary customs. I wasn’t surprised to hear that the local food is considerably influenced by neighboring cuisines: Mediterranean, Turkish, Greek, Italian, as well as Central and Eastern European cooking.

Grah - Balkan Bean Stew - Croatian, Serbian, Bosnian - The Lotus and the Artichoke

GrahWeißer Bohneneintopf aus dem Balkan mit Seitan

3 bis 4 Portionen / Dauer 30 Min.

  •  2 EL Margarine oder Öl
  • 2 Knoblauchzehen fein gehackt
  • 1 mittelgroße Zwiebel gehackt
  • 2 TL Paprikapulver gemahlen
  • 1/2 TL schwarzer Pfeffer gemahlen
  • 2 Lorbeerblätter
  • 1 Tasse / 100 g Pilze gehackt
  • 200 g Seitan oder Räuchertofu klein gewürfelt
  • 2 Tassen / 400 g weiße Bohnen (gekocht, abgegossen)
  • 1 Tasse / 240 ml Wasser
  • 1 EL Maisstärke oder Mehl + 1/4 Tasse / 60 ml Wasser
  • 2 EL Hefeflocken oder 1 EL Gemüsebrühenpulver
  • 3/4 TL Salz
  • frische Petersilie gehackt, zum Garnieren
  1. In einem großen Topf Margarine auf mittlerer Flamme erhitzen.
  2. Knoblauch, Zwiebeln, Paprikapulver und Pfeffer hineingeben. Unter Rühren 3-4 Min. anbraten.
  3. Lorbeerblätter, Pilze und Seitan hinzufügen. Verrühren und weitere 2-3 Min. braten.
  4. Bohnen zugeben. Alles gut mischen und 2-3 min. garen.
  5. 1 Tasse Wasser unterrühren. Auf niedriger Flamme unter Rühren 5 Min. köcheln lassen.
  6. Maisstärke und 1/4 Tasse Wasser mit Schneebesen unterrühren.
  7. Hefeflocken und Salz untermischen. Unter gelegentlichem Rühren 5-10 Min. köcheln.
  8. Mit Petersilie und Paprikapulver garnieren. Mit Brot servieren.

Variationen:

Mehr Gemüse: Pilze, klein geschnittene Möhren, rote Paprika und /oder Tomate hinzufügen.

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Carrot Ginger Zucchini Soup

Carrot Ginger Zucchini Soup

(2.0 recipe version, updated December 8, 2020)

I’ve been making variations of this vegan Carrot Ginger soup recipe for over fifteen years. The inspiration for the recipe came from my friend Monika, a former co-worker from South Africa whom I met when we were part-time English teachers at Berlitz Language School in our early years in a quite different, far less gentrified and commercial Berlin.

It’s been years since I heard from Monika– also a passionate cook, polyglot, and world adventurer. She had fantastic stories of doing research work with primates in the rainforests of Central America, and we regularly talked travel, came up with new destinations, and talked about unconventional life ambitions and all the wild characters in our lives. Whenever I make this soup, I always think of her and the early 2000s here in Berlin… meeting in sparsely-furnished Altbau flats (for a while she didn’t have a fridge and kept perishable food items outside the kitchen window in the cold), inviting our international friends, telling her techno-junkie neighbor to turn his raging music down, lunch meet-ups doing tech support on flailing iMacs, and most most memorably– picnics and hikes around the countryside lakes.

The recipe she gave me after a dinner party in Friedrichshain was for Carrot Ginger Pumpkin soup. I’ve modified her recipe over the years to include potato (for a vegan creamy texture) and soy milk instead of cream. I also often use other vegetables (in this case zucchini) instead of pumpkin.

I love to cook with what I have in the kitchen, and I still change up this soup accordingly all the time. This is an all-year soup that you can vary in thickness and spice according to weather and whim. Like thicker soups? Easy: Add less water. Not in the mood for thick wintery soup? No trouble: increase the water or soy milk slightly. It’s also easy to make a more South Asian version by increasing the appropriate spices, using fresh turmeric, and I’ve even turned this into a sort of dal (lentil) fusion soup adding a cup of cooked red lentils to the vegetables before puréeing. And if you want a more European and less Asian soup, drop or reduce the cumin and coriander and add lots of fresh thyme, basil, rosemary– and possibly some tomato paste or chopped tomatoes.

This soup works great as a starter served along with a healthy salad (such as my Arugula Pear Walnut salad favorite) warming up to a nice, hearty meal. It impresses guests every time and everyone always asks for more.

It’s also a hit for families and with kids. My son isn’t a big fan of fresh ginger, so I always dial that down and bit and often add cooked lentils. Like his dad, he’s kinda a Dal-aholic.

Double the soup and have enough for a few days. You won’t get bored of it, especially if you have plenty of good bread, tasty crackers, or your own tasty croutons. It can also be frozen and kept for a quick, delicious meal next week, or whenever when you’re too lazy to cook.

Carrot Ginger Zucchini Soup 2.0

serves 3 to 4 / time 30 min

  • 3 medium (300 g) carrots peeled, chopped
  • 3 medium (300 g) potatoes peeled, chopped
  • 1 medium (250 g) zucchini chopped
  • 2 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 small red (60 g) onion chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic finely chopped
  • 1 in (3 cm) ginger finely chopped
  • 1 tsp cumin ground
  • 1 tsp coriander ground
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg ground
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper ground
  • 1/2 tsp paprika ground
  • 1 Tbs lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) white wine or water
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric ground
  • 1 Tbs nutritional yeast flakes optional 
  • 3/4 tsp salt more as needed
  • 1 cup (240 ml) soy milk
  • 3 cups (720 ml) vegetable broth
    or 3 cups (720 ml) water + 1 Tbs vegetable broth powder
  • fresh herbs for garnish
  1. Heat oil in large pot on medium heat. Add chopped onion, garlic, ginger, ground cumin, coriander, nutmeg, black pepper, and paprika. Mix well. Fry until garlic and onions are browned, 2–3 min.
  2. Add chopped carrots, potatoes, and zucchini. Mix well with spices, cook until browned, 3–5 min.
  3. Add lemon juice and 1/4 cup (60 ml) white wine (or water). Cook partially covered, stirring often,
    until all vegetables are soft, 7–10 min. Remove from heat.
  4. Transfer to a blender. Add soy milk and purée until smooth. (Alternately use an immersion blender.)
  5. Return purée to pot on medium heat. Stir in turmeric and nutritional yeast flakes (if using) and simmer 2–3 min.
  6. Stir in 2–3 cups (480–720 ml) vegetable broth (or water and broth powder) gradually, maintaining
    a gentle boil. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer to desired consistency, another 5–10 min,
    gradually adding more broth or water as needed.
  7. Continue to cook on medium low heat, reduce to desired consistency. Stir in salt, adjusting to taste.
  8. Garnish with fresh herbs and some ground paprika and black pepper.
  9. Serve with bread, croutons, or crackers.

Variations:

Vedic: Replace garlic and onions with 1/8 tsp asafoetida (hing) and 1 tsp black mustard seeds. Pumpkin: Replace carrots and zucchini with chopped pumpkin. Cashew creamy: Instead of soy milk, blend with 1 cup (240 ml) water and 2–3 Tbs cashews, ideally soaked for 30 min beforehand.

Recipe from The Lotus and the Artichoke – Vegan Recipes from World Adventures 2.0 (2021 – Ventil Verlag)