Broccoli Coconut Soup

Until I was 19 years old, I couldn’t stand broccoli. I don’t know what the heck I was thinking back then, but I do remember being served some steamed florets at a restaurant in Costa Rica – at the age of 19 – and I just loved it, all of a sudden. Weird, isn’t it? I was also one of those cilantro-haters until I moved to New York, where I had some the first week, immediately loved it and couldn’t understand what I’d been complaining about all those years. Also weird, right? My theory is that both my Costa Rica-trip (my first long backpacking trip without family) and my move to NYC changed me so fundamentally even my taste buds got tweaked. And hey, it was awesome! Now I’m a happy grower of both broccoli and cilantro and treat them as if my own babies!

This soup is both light and SO flavorful. You’ll need something a little more substantial on the side to fill you up properly, but that’s ok. Heck, that’s one of the best things about soup… that you get to dig into some seriously good bread on the side! Munching down a whole lot of broccoli is always a good idea – full of vitamin C, folic acid, potassium, phosphorus and a bunch of other good stuff, it’s certainly a keeper among the vegetables. Recently, I learned that’s even more true than I thought. Broccoli, together with its other friends in the cruciferous plant family, contains glucoraphanin, a precursor to the phytochemical sulforaphane. Now, sulforaphane (SFN) is some serious stuff in the world of health benefits – and we’re not talking small-scale here. Scientific studies show that SFN has a range of anticancer properties, e.g. the ability to alter pathways in the early stages of tumor growth and activate cell-protective mechanisms in response to oxidative stress, thus possibly preventing cancer all together. In addition, SFN has a positive effect on chronic inflammatory diseases, can counteract osteoporosis and even battle Alzheimer’s. Needless to say, getting yourself a SFN boost every now and then seems a brilliant idea. I will try to keep this at a reasonable level here, without getting too detailed, but for those of you who would like to read more, simply google “Sulforaphane”and get reading. But here we go:

Sulforaphane has a precursor, glucoraphanin, which was mentioned above. Glucoraphanin needs an enzyme, myrosinase, in order to transform into SFN. Now, both glucoraphanin (the precursor) and sulforaphane (the good stuff) are heat-resistant, meaning they’ll survive the cooking process. The enzyme, however, does not. This means we can’t just eat cooked cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, cabbage etc.) and think we just provided our bodies with heaps of SFN. There are two ways to combat this: a.) pre-chopping our vegetables pretty finely at least an hour (preferably 1-2 hrs) before cooking them or b.) add the enzyme in afterwards (more about that in a few sentences). Option “a” works thanks to the following interesting fact: the enzyme (myrosinase) goes to work once the vegetable has been “damaged” (i.e. chopped, chewed etc.). If we chop up the veggies well in advance, the enzyme will get plenty of time to do its job (that is, turn glucoraphanin into sulforaphane) and when it’s time to cook that dinner, you’ll have already converted sulforaphane at your hands. We don’t need the heat-sensitive enzyme anymore, but can safely cook our vegetables full of the heat-resistant sulforphane as we please. But what if we don’t have time to chop our vegetables in the morning and we get home right around dinner time, or we forgot? Here, we turn to option “b”. At this point, we know that the precursor glucoraphanin is heat-resistant, so we can cook vegetables all we want and still have it right there. But, we need it to be turned into sulforaphane for all those health benefits, and for that, we need the enzyme myrosinase (which we’ve now lost in the cooking process). We do not have to buy a sketchy looking bag of chemically produced enzymes to be able to add it in afterwards – a sprinkle of an un-cooked cruciferous vegetable on top and you’ll be good to go! Isn’t it brilliant? Either, you mix in some raw broccoli/kale/whatever you’re making with the cooked. That works perfectly, since the amount of myrosinase needed is very small. Or, you mix in e.g. mustard powder, grated horseradish, wasabi or daikon root – these are all members of the same plant family and thus possess the same enzyme. A sprinkle and you’re golden. Myrosinase survives temperatures up to 70°C (160°F), and that’s pretty much the temperature of hot coffee and tea. I was in total awe when I understood all of this. Nature rocks.

Excuse the science class but this just seemed too good not to share though, wouldn’t you agree? I’m feeding us SFN as much as I can, and I got my mom on it too. I don’t want her to get cancer again, to put it simply. Neither do I want anyone else to. Oh, and just a quick note as far as any continued reading you might do: broccoli sprouts have been found to have the highest amount of SFN available, so you might see this term a lot. Know that all cruciferous vegetables have it though, just to various degrees. Maybe the saying should go “A cruciferous vegetable a day keeps the doctor away”? Sign is most definitely pointing towards that. As far as the recipe below – we’ve added some mustard powder at the end (which is quite tasty) but if you would rather pre-chop your veggies and skip the dash of mustard, feel free. Happy broccoli munching!

För recept på svenska, klicka här: Broccolisoppa med kokosmjölk

Serves 4-6

1 tbsp coconut oil
150 g onions, chopped (2 small)
2 garlic cloves, minced
700-800 g broccoli, chopped (use head + stalk – the whole thing is as edible as it is tasty)
2 tsp white wine vinegar
1-1.2 l water
2 tbsp bouillon powder
3-4 dl coconut milk, reserve a few tablespoons for serving
250 g frozen peas (6 dl)
110 g cooked chickpeas, rinsed (1 ½ dl) 
3-4 tbsp lemon juice
¼ tsp salt (if needed)
1 tsp mustard powder
Black pepper
Red pepper flakes for serving

  1. Heat up the coconut oil in a pot. Sauté onions and a pinch of salt over medium heat for a few minutes, before adding in the garlic. Cook for another minute or two, and then stir in the broccoli. Continue sautéing for 3-4 more minutes.
  2. Add the white vine vinegar to the pot, and let steam for a minute. Then add water and bouillon powder. Bring to a boil and allow to simmer, covered, for roughly 10 min, or until the broccoli is softened but still slightly undercooked. Add in the coconut milk, frozen peas and chickpeas, and bring back to a simmer (covered).
  3. As soon as it starts to simmer, turn off the heat. Stir in the lemon juice. Using a stick blender, blend until the soup is as smooth as you can get it. Season to taste (depending on your bouillon, you might need ¼ tsp salt). Give it a few grinds of black pepper and mix in the mustard powder, and serve in big bowls with a drizzle of coconut milk and a pinch of red pepper flakes on top.

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