Motherfood: a transformative journey
The path of Motherhood will change you in unimaginable ways, says Vanessa A Clarkson, author of Motherfood, published by Bateman Books (RRP $59.95), as she unearths the special role that nourishing foods can play in your journey.
For the past 15 years the registered nutritionist, health expert and mother has specialised in infant, child and maternal nourishment.
Watercress and Coconut Soup with Sun-Dried Tomato Chilli Oil
In the first few weeks after giving birth, Bataknese women in the North Sumatra province of Indonesia eat torbangun soup three times a day. Torbangun is the local name for Coleus amboinicus, which is known as Country or Indian borage in English. The word bangun translates to ‘wake up’ and is meant in the sense of giving strength to a mother. This restorative soup is made with several handfuls of leaves and coconut milk or water, and sometimes chicken or catfish as well.
This recipe is just as unassuming and laden with handfuls of nourishing watercress, but you can really use any greens you have to hand. If I were batch cooking this, I would only go so far as to make up the coconut broth. When needed, warm through a bowlful of broth and only add the fresh leaves just before eating, which will keep their colour, flavour and nutrients intact.
Serves 4 generously | Time 45 minutes
For the soup
- extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 brown onion, diced
- 2 large zucchini (courgettes), topped and grated
- 400 ml (1½ cups + 1 tablespoon, or 1 x 400-ml can) coconut milk 875 ml (3½ cups) stock
- juice of ½ a small lemon ground black pepper
- 2 large handfuls of watercress, stems removed and roughly chopped
For the flavoured oil
- 40 g (¼ cup) sun-dried tomato strips
- 1 red chilli, deseeded and roughly chopped 185 ml (¾ cup) extra-virgin olive oil
Warm a generous splash of olive oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Sauté the onion and zucchini, stirring regularly, until the onion has softened, and the juices have started to release from the zucchini, about 10 minutes. Add the coconut milk, stock, lemon juice and season well with black pepper. Simmer, uncovered, until the onion is cooked through, about 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, prepare the flavoured oil by blending the sun-dried tomatoes, chilli and olive oil with a hand-held blender, until only small fragments of tomato and chilli remain, 3-4 minutes. At this point you can pour the oil through a sieve to create a smooth oil (compost the pulp or add to a chilli or similar), or you can keep it pulpy. To store any leftover flavoured oil, refrigerate it in an airtight container, like a jam jar. It should keep well for at least 6 months.
When the soup is ready, remove the pan from the heat and stir through the watercress, which will blanch cook in the residual heat. Use a hand-held blender to pulse into a thick and creamy soup, or keep the texture and silky leaves, by skipping this extra step.
Serve immediately with a drizzle of the flavoured oil.