Comfort Foods: Spicy Soups from Around the World

Five spicy soups I’ve been wanting to make and now is the time! The weather here has been a little strange which has become the norm these days. One day its in the 20’s then it shoots up to 60 then back down to the 30s! Who can dress for this weather? Well one thing is for sure, Winter is here to stay for a while so stock up on your veggies and spices and let’s take a world soup journey. First up is an American nod to Mexico, then a tour of Asia and finally a pit stop in the sunny Caribbean…we can dream can’ t we? So get comfy in your over-sized sweater and thick wool socks and curl up to these awesome spicy soup recipes.

1. Spicy Chipotle Sweet Potato Soup from A Beautiful Mess. I can just taste the silky smooth sweet potato balanced with the spicy, smokey chipotle and looks so easy to make!

Spicy Chipotle Sweet Potato Soup

2. Indian Spiced Chicken Turmeric Soup from Spicie Foodie. I love Indian spice flavors and this soup is healthy and good for you. Studies show that turmeric has cancer fighting properties so get your fill here.

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3. Yunnan Beef Stew from Lady and Pups. Just look at it, how can you resist this delicious bowl of short ribs, ginger, garlic, lemongrass and mint? Soul soothing!

4. Korean Spicy Green Onion Beef Soup, Yuk Gae Jahng from Week of Menus. This is my go to soup when ever I go to little Korea in NYC. This soup is peppery, bold and heart warming.

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5. Jamaican Pepper Pot Stew from My Wooden Spoons. This soup is gorgeous and just waiting to be devoured! Add a scotch bonnet pepper to the pot for extra heat!

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Slow Cooker Ropa Vieja: Spicy Shredded Beef Over Rice

We got over a foot of snow here in Jersey on Friday and heard the Connecticut area got it far worse than us with over three feet of snow! I can’t imagine having to dig out of all that snow! I went out to shovel during the storm just to get a head start so shoveling the next day wasn’t too bad. This is some serious back breaking work but the best part is coming back inside to warm up and relax to a warm and hearty meal. I have always loved snowy days for this, knowing my Mom would have a hot meal for us after a day of snow angels, igloos and snowmen. Today I still want to play in it but instead do the necessary clean up, clear the car, slush around the city in my comfy boots and puffy coat, watch my dog hop around like a little bunny (he hates the snow!), then come back inside for an awesome meal. And I can do all this with my awesome slow cooker without having to fuss too much in the kitchen.

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So while you’re out playing, shoveling, organizing your cupboards or what ever you do when you’re snowed in, make this wonderful spicy dish popular in many Latin American homes. Ropa Vieja, or old clothes, is a well spiced, boldly flavored shredded beef dish served over white rice. It’s the comfort food I crave during cold, snowy days like these. This isn’t a dish that’s high on the heat index and most restaurants will serve a hot sauce on the side but I like mine spicy and have turned up the heat in this recipe.

This is one easy recipe where you pretty much just toss everything in and let the slow cooker do its thing. Before you do that though add the onions first. Having the onions on the bottom helps “prop” up the beef and ensures it does not stick to the bottom of the cooker and burn.

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I used this older slow cooker because my roast was only two pounds but the more modern cookers may have a built-in rack. If that’s the case then you don’t need to add the onions first. Add the remaining ingredients and set the slow cooker on high until the meat is fork tender.

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The meat will release a lot of juices but will eventually burn off during the cooking process so if you are like me and like a saucier dish, just add a little water and tomato paste. Just make sure you taste it to ensure the seasoning is right for you.

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Once the beef has finished cooking, remove from the slow cooker and onto a cutting board for shredding. After you have shredded the meat with a fork just add it back to the slow cooker and stir well.

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You can serve the beef over rice, have it with plantains or make a sandwich, this is a dish that will pretty much go with anything. Any leftovers can be frozen if you are not planning on having it within a week.

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Ropa Vieja (Old Clothes) – Spicy Shredded Beef

2 lbs chuck roast or flank steak, cut in half
4 small onions, quartered
1 green pepper
1 red pepper
1/2 cup cilantro
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup tomato paste
4 oz can tomato sauce
2 chipotles in Adobo sauce
1 tbsp Adobo
1 tsp oregano

1. Turn on your slow cooker and add the onions to the pot.

2. Rinse the chuck roast and add to slow cooker so it rests on top of onions. Cutting roast in half will speed up the cooking time. Add all the remaining ingredients and cover the slow cooker

3. Cook on high setting for 4-5 hours or until the beef is tender enough to pull apart with a fork.

4. Transfer the roast to a shallow pan or cutting boarding and pull the meat apart with a fork.

5. Add the meat back to the slow cooker and mix well with the remaining juices. If meat isn’t saucy enough you can fill the 4oz can with water and add to meat. Add a little more Adobo seasoning if needed to adjust to your tastes.

6. Serve shredded beef over cooked white rice.

Spicy Pozole Soup to Heat Up the Month of May

Ah Pozole, you’ve been on my mind for such a long time, so nice to finally get to have you! Ok, in case you didn’t know, I enjoy food, really good tasting, spicy and flavorful foods. My mouth waters when I think of certain dishes I’ve had over the years and plot in my head when I’m going to have it again. I’ve only had Pozole at restaurants and always wanted to learn how to make it since my favorite taqueria only serves it on Sunday…pfft. This soup just makes me feel so happy and cozy. Have you ever had a meal that just makes you feel this way? It’s what keeps me going back to certain places and it’s what inspires me to cook. Food should do that, it should make you smile and feel inspired for what ever.

Pozole is a popular Mexican soup made with hominy (pozole) and pork. Pozole is used in the soup but the soup also goes by same name. It’s mostly a broth with seasoned chunks of tender pork shoulder and lots of fixings. The soup is usually brought out with several mini bowls filled with chopped onions, cilantro, cabbage, jalapenos, avocados and you get to add as much as you like. It’s also what makes it so interesting, you get this piping hot bowl of soup with cool, crunchy cabbage, raw onions, a bit of acidity from the limes and heat you can adjust to your liking. Love that! Another note is that it’s a great option for those looking for gluten free recipes.

I made the red version of Pozole which uses pureed chile peppers but it can also be made with a clear broth. I also had a head start because I used a leftover pork shoulder roast I had froze after Easter dinner. I probably cut the cook time down by at least an hour because of this so if you don’t have any leftover roast, don’t fret, the stove is doing all the cooking! This is pretty much what I had…I’d say about 2-3 lbs on bone and just dropped whole thing in seasoned water to make the broth. I did remove some of the meat to brown it up a little.

Since I started with leftovers, I removed as much meat as possible and browned that meat in a little vegetable oil, with onions and garlic. I then added it to the broth with all the other seasonings. If you start with raw meat, your pork should be cut into cubic chunks and you’ll definitely have more meat than I had, see below. I adapted this recipe from Simply Recipes so please check out their instructions on preparing the raw meat.

Make this stew on a chilly day, it’ll make you feel warm and relaxed or make it after a night of hanging out and help cure that hangover! Better yet, make it to celebrate Cinco de Mayo!

Cinco de Mayo, or May 5th, is a day that’s become very popular here in the US for celebrating Mexican food and culture. This year is it’s 150th anniversary. The day marks a small battle won by Mexicans in the state of Puebla in an unlikely defeat against the French in the late 1800’s. A small battle, with respect to the rest of the revolution, but very important in boosting morale in the area and its people. Here in the states the day has turned into an overly hyped and commercialized “holiday”. This is fine by me since I tend to stay away from the loud, crazy parties and I already got my fill in college! I just enjoy the good times with friends and family. For me it’s another day I get to have great Mexican food as I try to do all year round!

Happy Cinco de Mayo!!

ps. This soup is spicy with the chipotle peppers!  The original recipe called for a guajillo chile sauce but that hardly has any heat at all so I opted for the chipotles in adodo. If you like it spicy, you’ll love this! You can try just adding half the chipotle peppers first, tasting soup after 5 minutes and then add the rest if spice is right for you. Soup is usually served with diced jalapenos but you don’t really need it for this dish, at least I didn’t think so.

Red Spicy Pozole
serves 6-8
adapted from Simply Recipes

2-3 lbs pork shoulder, cooked or leftovers
1 tbsp salt
1 tbsp oregano
1-2 tsp cumin
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp pepper
8 garlic cloves
1 medium onion, chopped
1 16 oz can of hominy, “pozole
1 4 oz can of chipotles in adobo sauce

Fixings
1 haas avocado, cut into small chunks
1 small onion, diced
1 cup of cilantro chopped
1 red cabbage, shredded
1 cup of radishes, sliced

1. Take off all the meat from bone and set aside.  Since I started with leftovers I already had seasoned meat so I just wanted to brown the meat a bit more. Take the bone and add it to a large pot and cover with water. Add the salt, cumin, turmeric, oregano, bay leaves and 4 whole garlic cloves and let boil. Make sure you taste and adjust the salt if you like. Let boil for at least 30 minutes so you get a well flavored broth from the bone.

2. Heat up 1-2 tbsp of vegetable oil in a saute pan on medium heat. Add the onions and cook until translucent. Add the chunks of pork and toss around with the onions. Once the meat is browned a bit, add 4 minced cloves of garlic and stir.

3. Add the browned meat to the broth mixture, then add the pozole and let cook for another 10-15 minutes stirring every 5 minutes or so. The pozole will plump up to twice it’s size.

4. Add the chipotle in adobo sauce to a blender and puree the chiles making sure the chiles are well chopped. Add the sauce to the Pozole soup and stir.

5. Lower the heat and let the Pozole simmer for another 10 minutes until the flavors are all blended well.

6. While the soup is cooking, prepare all the fixings and add each to small serving bowls.

7. Serve the Pozole in bowls and add as many fixings as you like.