Winter is coming. With it the prices on a lot of greens have gone up or simply the greens themselves do not last like they do in the summer. Beside that, soups and stews are much more appealing once the weather turns and we can see our breath in the morning air. I used to turn to Indian curries and North African stews like Harira and Algerian Chorba in the winter but my family prefers more Western flavors. Simple food, as he calls it, is utmost in my husband’s book. In my children’s as well. As much as I love the hotter spices and exotic flavors the foods they most enjoy are mild but full of richness.
I have further challenges in my wee family in the form of food preferences and as much as I believe in eating the food that is in front of you as a principle; I still prefer that those whom I serve food actually enjoy it. Waste not, want not. If people like the food in front of them they tend to clean their plate. My oldest daughter, though she is a meat eater on occasion, does not enjoy vegetables that taste like meat. She loves her veggies and will eat them raw or cooked and with gusto, but not if they have a hint of animal protein about them. I prefer most of my soups meat free as well but being raised on a farm diet of eggs and sausage for most of my life I tend to be happy with my veg in any form. She seems to take after my mother in law and is an uber veggie aficionado, which I love, and has a distaste for certain meaty flavors so I try to be sensitive to that. Frankly, I love vegan food and find it gloriously challenging so if at any point I can add to my recipe repertoire in this area, I will.
This recipe is a warm and comforting one. It is filling and nutritious and versatile in that it is Paleo and Vegan but can easily be expanded by adding a can of cannellini beans or even sausage, for those who prefer the stew in its classic form: tuscan kale & sausage stew. It is done entirely in the instant pot, which I’m discovering to be a great help these days as I haven’t much time for dinner prep once I’ve gotten the two older kids through their homework. They go to a Classical Christian School and the curriculum is rigorous as one would expect. Our children were in Primary 2 and Nursery (2nd grade and Kindergarten, respectively) in Northern Ireland last year so I love that they still get to attend with their age mates whilst being challenged academically. But that is another topic…
Here is the soup, or stew, in all its warmth and simplicity.
1 medium onion, finely diced (so that little people miss them entirely)
3-4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 small butternut squash, peeled and diced (about 3 cups)
6-8 carrots, peeled and sliced
1 head cauliflower, broken apart into florets or 1 bag frozen
1 pouch petite diced or crushed tomatoes (or 2-3 fresh ones, diced)
1 bunch curly kale, rinsed and chopped
1 can cannellini or another white bean variety, soaked, cooked, drained and rinsed (optional, NOT paleo)
1 tsp turmeric
1 small handful chopped oregano or 1 Tbsp dried oregano
3-4 teaspoons kosher salt, to taste
2-4 cups water, depending on whether you prefer soup or stew
black pepper to taste (I leave it out as my kids find it spicy)
Spray the bottom of your instant pot with coconut oil (I use Sally’s Organics bottles filled with liquid coconut oil). Alternatively, you can use a tablespoon of coconut oil or ghee. I tend not to use olive oil when heating to high temperatures but if you have a high quality unrefined extra virgin olive oil it should have a sufficiently high smoke point and be safe for use.
Add the diced onion and garlic and set the Instant Pot to sauté. If you are using a standard pot just sauté the onions before adding the other ingredients. If you are using a crock pot or slow cooker you can either do this step first and then add all the ingredients to the crock or you can just chuck it all in together. I find sautéing caramelizes the onions and makes them more palatable to little people and husbands who are not fond of strong flavors. Also, this is similar to how french onion soup is made so sautéing first negates the need for vegetable broth.
Here’s where you decide whether you are going for soup or stew. For the former, add the butternut squash and then cover with water, about 2 cups. For the latter add the squash and carrots and then cover with water, which will be 3-4 cups. Don’t worry, you can always add more later.
Add the kale, tomatoes and cauliflower. If you’re going for the vegan super soup, add the beans but if you are on a Paleo diet, leave them out.
Lock the lid of your instant pot in place and set to “Soup/Stew” for 4 minutes. It will take longer than this to heat up, but draw the timer down to 3 or 4 minutes so as not to overcook your vegetables. If I am cooking with sausage I will cook them separately and let people add them individually, but some would prefer to add them in to the pot, in which case I would leave it at the default soup setting. On this note, if you are on a keto diet the inclusion of butternut squash will depend on your particular carbohydrate restrictions.
While your Instant Pot is doing its thing, you can whip up a batch of grain free “cornbread” made with coconut flour.
I hope you enjoy this! We certainly did. It’s a great “clean” meal to offset all the Paleo and Keto treats I’ve been testing and altogether enjoying in abundance. Your tum and bum will thank you.
Below: Kale & butternut squash stew with cannellini beans variation.