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Spicy Black Rice Soup

Tempting Tempeh

When China was still ruled by an emperor, black rice was dubbed as the "Forbidden Rice". It was cultivated in very small amounts because it was only for the Emperor's consumption. Although no such ban is practiced nowadays, black rice is still produced in low amounts. Rare yet highly nutritious, black rice is a powerhouse of antioxidants, heart-healthy properties and disease-preventing minerals. I've always got some Organico Nerone Black Rice in the cupboard and love this recipe! The aromatic soup pairs so well with the nuttiness of the black rice and topped off with protein-rich tempeh this is truly a meal for emperors! 

So what is tempeh? Tempeh is made from fermented soybeans, and thus a safe source of protein for vegetarians and vegans. Unfortunately, contrary to popular belief, tofu is not as wonderful as you perhaps once thought. I feel very strongly about sharing this message, as I get asked this question all the time and the media hides much of the truth behind soy and portrays soy as the protein-rich wonder that will save us all. Ask almost any nutritionist and they will tell you to avoid soy products like the plague. Why you ask? You thought it was a low-fat, protein-rich superfood. Though this is partially true, there is a darker side to soy, mainly that soy such as that found in soy milk, edamame beans and tofu is high in phytic acid which blocks the absorption of essential minerals and contain enzyme inhibitors that prevent the digestion of protein. It is the fermentation process of soy which removes phytic acid and deactivates those enzyme inhibitors, which is why fermented soy products are good for you (such as tamari soy sauce, miso and tempeh)!

Most Westerners don't even like soy milk, tofu or textured vegetable protein (such as Quorn or soy mince) and just eat or drink it as they've been told it's a healthy option, so hopefully this will incite you and yours to look for other options. My advice for consuming soy is to try to avoid all unfermented soy products. If you choose to eat or drink soy occasionally, please look out for organic non-GMO labels, this is really important as soy is the most widely grown crop in the world, a large proportion of soy in the world is GMO!

Tempeh, widely consumed in Indonesia where I spent some of my childhood, has a satisfying protein texture that lends itself well to this dish and is the perfect substitute for meat in your traditional favourites. Tempeh is not yet widely available in the UK, but here are some good organic ones I've found at Planet Organic and realfoods.co.uk. Enjoy this delicious curried black rice soup with tempeh, an egg or just as is!

Curried Black Rice Soup with Tempeh
Prep time: 55 mins
Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 2-3 tbs coconut oil or ghee
  • 1 tb mustard seeds
  • 1 small brown onion, finely diced
  • a handful of fresh curry leaves2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp coconut sugar
  • 2 red chillies, finely diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely diced
  • 5cm (1 inch) piece of fresh ginger, grated
  • 1 litre (4 cups) vegetable broth
  • 500ml (2 cups) water
  • 1 cup organic black rice, soaked for 12-24 hours
  • 2 cups of snow peas, mange tout or sugar snap peas
  • 1 bunch of tenderstem broccoli, cut into florets
  • 1 cup of mung bean sprouts
  • 300g tempeh, diced into large cubes (optional)

to serve:

  • ½ cucumber, grated
  • 1 red chilli, finely diced
  • handful of fresh coriander leaves, roughly torn
  • lime wedges

Instructions:
1. Heat the coconut oil or ghee in a large heavy based pot over a medium/low heat, add the mustard seeds and cook gently until they begin to pop. Add the onion and fry over a medium/low heat until soft.

2. Add the dry spices and curry leaves cooking over a low heat for a minute or two until fragrant and a paste begins to form. Add the garlic, ginger, chilli and coconut sugar and cook for a further minute.

3. Add the rice and toss to combine. Increase the heat and add the stock and water. Bring to a simmer, reduce heat to very low and allow to gently simmer, cook until rice is tender (cooking time will vary on how long you soaked the rice).

4. Just before serving pop the green vegetables into the soup to simmer for only a minute to be sure they do not over cook, you want them to still be a little crunchy.

5. To serve ladle the soup into large bowls and top with the grated cucumber, coriander and chilli to taste, add a squeeze of lime and enjoy!

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