It has been grey and cool(er) this weekend which I am enjoying after too many days of humid evenings. It's still in the low to mid 70s at night which makes it ever amusing to hear the weather forecasters say to make sure you have a jacket because it will be 'chilly' at night. Still, I did sleep with a light blanket last night for the first time in months--which was lovely, and it is perfect weather for a big bowl of flavorful soup or stew like this Niçoise Vegetable Stew with Rouille.
I was attracted to this soup from Plenty by Diana Henry for a number of reasons--the assertive flavors, the sunny color, the use of saffron, potatoes and fennel, and the chance to make a new-to-me sauce--a variation of a Provençal rouille. It also fits our Mystery Box Madness Challenge for November at I Heart Cooking Clubs--where the selected recipe needs to contain at least three out of ten ingredients: Harissa, Eggs, Saffron, Pumpkin, Maple Syrup, Dates, Rose Water, Oranges, Spinach, and Chickpeas. The original recipe for this stew contains three of the ingredients--eggs, saffron and oranges. I made a few adaptations to the recipe (noted in red below) and added two more of the ten mystery ingredients--chickpeas and harissa.
There is raw egg yolk in the rouille, so I used very fresh, local eggs. (It does make the soup even more special so definitely do it if you can get your hands on good eggs.) Henry serves this stew with grated Gruyère and croûtes or croutons which I think would be delicious, but Henry's talk of putting fish on the top before serving had me craving seared local ahi tuna steak sliced on top. Since ahi is expensive, this is a great way to make the soup more of a meal while also getting away with dividing a piece of fish or two between several people. Both the veggie version and the fish version (shown in the third and fourth photos) were fantastic.
Henry says, "This is like a Provençal fish soup without the fish. It has a really gutsy flavor. if you want to make it a fishy, you can poach some fish in the soup at the end; or you can cook fish separately and put some on top of each serving. If you don't like rouille you can serve this stew with aioli (garlic mayonnaise) instead."
Niçoise Vegetable Stew with Rouille
Adapted from Plenty by Diana Henry
(Serves 4 as Main / 6 as Side Dish)
For the Stew:
1/4 cup olive oil (I used 2 Tbsp)
1 lb small waxy potatoes, halved lengthwise
6 oz baby onions (I used a Maui sweet onion)
3 leeks, trimmed, washed and cut into chunks
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1/4 tsp dried red pepper flakes
3 cups vegetable or chicken stock
good pinch of saffron threads
1 strip of orange zest (I used several thick strips of zest)
3 thyme sprigs
salt and pepper
2 small fennel bulbs, sliced lengthwise
(I added 1 medium carrot, thinly sliced into strips)
6 plum tomatoes, quartered
(I added 1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas)
(I added some of the fennel fronds)
grated Gruyère cheese and baguette croûtes,to serve (optional) (omitted)
For the Rouille:
3 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
2 egg yolks
2/3 cup olive oil
4 tsp tomato paste
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (I subbed in harissa)
Heat the oil and gently sauté the potatoes, onions, and leeks for about 15 minutes. It's nice if the potatoes get a little golden. Stir from time to time to make sure nothing is sticking. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and sauté for another minute, then add half the stock.
Bring to a boil, add the saffron, orange zest, 2 of the thyme sprigs, salt, pepper and reduce to a simmer. Cook until the potatoes are just becoming tender, about 10 minutes.
Add the fennel and the tomatoes (and carrots and chickpeas if using & the rest of the stock--see Notes/Results below). Stir well and cook until the vegetables are tender, another 10 minutes or so. Stir carefully every so often to make sure everything's well coated in the saffron juices, but try not to break up the potatoes.
For the rouille, put the garlic and a little salt into a mortar and grind to a purée. Mix in the yolks, then add the oil drop by drop, beating all the time (with a wooden spoon or electric hand beater). The mixture should thicken. Don't add the next drop of oil until the previous drop has been incorporated fully and the mixture has thickened. Add the tomato purée, lemon juice to taste, and the cayenne, then adjust the seasoning.
Strip the leaves from the remaining thyme sprig and add to the stew. (I added some of the fennel fronds too for extra color/flavor.) Serve in soup plates with rouille spooned on top. I sometimes also serve grated Gruyère and croûtes, as you would with Provençal fish soup.
Notes/Results: Such a great bowl of soup, and although there are a few extra steps if you make the rouille and sear fish for the top, it actually goes together fairly quickly. I used a bit less oil for cooking my vegetables because the rouille sauce has quite a lot already. If you find your veggies sticking, add a little of the stock to them and keep stirring. Speaking of the stock, I could not find where it said to add the other half of the stock in the recipe so I added it in with the fennel and tomatoes. The cooked chickpeas are a good addition to make this dish more satisfying as a meal. You wouldn't necessarily need both them and the fish on top but it worked for me. ;-) I liked subbing in the harissa in the rouille--a nice amount of spice and a little different flavor than cayenne. The rouille sort of melts into the warm broth of the soup and gives it a silkiness and a big punch of flavor.
For the tuna, I just seared it in a hot pan with a little oil, salt and pepper (raw in the middle as good ahi really should be), ;-) then I sliced it and placed it on top of the soup with the rouille drizzled on top. So good! But, it was just as appealing without any fish or would be good using another kind fish if ahi is hard to find for you. The fish makes this soup a bit more elegant for company I think, but this recipe is a keeper for me even without it. I would definitely make it again.
As mentioned, this soup will be linked up to this coming week's Mystery Box Madness Challenge at IHCC once the post goes live. You'll be able to see what mystery ingredients and recipes people chose by checking out the picture links on the post.
It's a bit quiet in the Souper Sundays kitchen this week but we have two good friends with soups to share, so let's have a look.
Tigerfish of Teczcape - An Escape to Food is here with healthy Cabbage, Brussel Sprouts, Baby Broccoli Pasta Soup (or "Brassica Oleracea-family" Pasta Soup). She says, "This bowl of soup is all part of the Brassica oleracea family which includes cabbage, brussel sprouts and broccoli (broccolini to be exact). If there is only one essential tip to share for making this soup a
success, it is to not over-cook the brussel sprouts and baby broccoli
when they are added into the soup. A warm, soothing, and satisfying soup for autumn and the coming winter months."
Mireille of Chef Mireille's East West Realm shares Gochujang Dak Juk - Korean Chicken Rice Soup. She says, "Congee or jook is the name for a rice porridge that is a common
breakfast item in China. In Korea, it is called juk and with the
addition of gochujang, I made a spiced up Korean version. I made this version a little looser consistency so it is closer to an
American style soup than an Asian style porridge but this makes a
perfect meal to enjoy as the temperatures start to dip."
to Tigerfish and Mireille for joining me this week. If you have a soup, salad, or
sandwich that you would like to share, just click on the Souper Sundays logo on the sidebar for all of the details.
Have a happy, healthy week!