Whether you're feeling run down or wanting to take proactive steps to boost immunity and ward off colds, this is a must-have soup for your winter kitchen toolkit. It's bright from lime and cilantro, sweet from coconut milk, sweet potato, and curry powder, spicy from ginger and chili, and rich in green cleansing power from kale, cauliflower, and cilantro.
This is a soup I keep in rotation throughout the cold months. The cauliflower and sweet potato combination is a favorite but sometimes I'll swap in shiitake mushrooms or bell peppers, or on the rare occasion cook bone-in chicken in the broth first for extra amino acid nourishment especially helpful for calming inflammation in mucous membranes.
Regardless of these swaps, the Cilantro Ginger Blender Sauce is a non-negotiable. This verdant green, boldly flavored sauce is poured into the soup at the end, off the heat, to preserve the healing properties of cilantro, ginger, and garlic in their most potent (raw) form.
Nutritional facts aside, this is just plain delicious to eat. So if that's all you're after, skip directly to the recipe. But if you're curious to know what gives this soup immunity-boosting powers, keep reading!
- Onions + Garlic: Members of the allium family, this duo contains allicin and sulfides, anti-viral, anti-bacterial, and anti-inflammatory compounds that protect us from infection. Onions and garlic are also pungent by nature, according to Traditional Chinese Medicine, and contain properties that stimulate digestion and break down mucus.
- Ginger: Relieves nausea, calms inflammation, and may reduce the toxic burden that dampens immunity by encouraging sweating and detoxification. Ginger, along with other spicy foods such as garlic, chili peppers, and horseradish, contains "mucolytics" -- substances similar to expectorant cough syrups that liquefy and thin mucus accumulated in the sinuses and breathing pathways.
- Cauliflower + Kale + Cilantro: Citrus and tropical fruit are not the only Vitamin C powerhouses. Cauliflower and kale are also rich in this powerful antioxidant. They're members of the cruciferous vegetable family which, together with cilantro, are loaded with phytonutrients and support the liver's detoxification process. Remember, a heavy toxin load in the body (think: mercury from fish, pollutants from air, waste by-products from digestion) dampens immunity. So supporting detoxification supports immunity.
- Sweet Potato: Loaded with Vitamin A in the form of beta-carotene which the body uses to boost the number of infection-fighting cells, natural killer cells, and helper T-cells.
- Curry powder: Curcumin is an active compound in turmeric. And turmeric is a primary spice in curry powder. With its powerful anti-inflammatory properties, curcumin fights inflammation in the intestinal lining and promotes overall gut health.
What does gut health have to do with immunity?
For strong immunity we must have a healthy gut because 60% of our immune system lies just below the intestinal lining. The immune system is activated when disturbed by food antigens, bacterial toxins, and other types of stressors such as emotional stress.
Avoiding foods we're sensitive or intolerant to and incorporating lots of plants and whole foods in our daily diet will prevent unnecessary inflammation in the gut, allowing our immune system to turn all its attention to fighting off colds and the flu instead.
Immunity Boosting Curry with Cilantro Blender Sauce
- Generous knob of coconut oil (or ghee)
- 1 heaped Tbsp. curry powder
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced, divided
- 6 Tbsp. finely minced ginger, divided (~2 in. piece of ginger - size of two thumbs together)
- 4 cups (1 L) water
- 1 large head of cauliflower (with tender outer leaves)
- 1 medium-large sweet potato (keep skin on if organic)
- 1 1/2 cups (210 gr.) chickpeas
- 2 tsp. salt
- 200 ml coconut milk (half of a 400 ml can)
- 5 stalks kale, stripped off stem (or a few large handfuls chopped)
- Juice of 1 lime, divided
- Cilantro Ginger Blender Sauce (recipe below)
- Toasted cashews
- Cooked brown rice
- Get out a large cutting board and prep onion, garlic, ginger. Chop cauliflower into florets and sweet potato into bite-size cubes the size of cauliflower florets.
- Melt oil in a large heavy-bottomed soup pot over medium to medium-high heat. Stir curry powder into oil and toast until fragrant (30 - 60 seconds). Add onion, 2/3 of minced garlic (add remaining 1/3 to blender for sauce), and 3 Tbsp. ginger (add remaining 3 Tbsp. to blender for sauce) and more oil if pan is dry. Stir and cook until softened (3-5 minutes), adding a splash of water during this time to make a paste and prevent burning.
- Add water, cauliflower, sweet potato, chickpeas, and salt. Cover pot, raise heat to high, bring to boil, then reduce to a strong simmer. Cook, covered, for 12- 15 minutes, or until vegetables are just tender but not falling apart.
- In the meantime, roughly chop kale and make blender sauce. When vegetables are cooked turn off heat. Stir in kale, coconut milk, and juice from 1/2 the lime. Stir in green sauce. (At this point I like adding a ladle full of soup liquid back to the blender and swirling it around to release green sauce from the sides of blender and pouring it back into the soup.)
- Ladle into bowls with rice and top with toasted cashews.
Cilantro Ginger Blender Sauce
- 40 gr cilantro, leaves + tender stems (~ half a large bunch of cilantro)
- 3 Tbsp. finely minced ginger (remaining half minced ginger from soup prep)
- 1 clove minced garlic (remaining 1/3 minced garlic from soup prep)
- 1 red or green chili
- Juice from 1/2 remaining lime
- 1/8 tsp. salt
- 1/2 cup-3/4 cup (120-180 ml) soup liquid
- Tear cilantro leaves and stems in half. Add to blender along with remaining ingredients. Blend until smooth and color is verdant green, adding just enough liquid so it blends thoroughly.