Friday, January 31, 2014

C is for Cauldron

The cauldron is much more than a simple pot used for cooking over a fire. The cauldron is a symbol of Cerridwen.  In Welsh mythology, Cerridwen is the keeper of the cauldron of inspiration and transformation.
  The leprechaun’s pot of gold is a cauldron full of coins.  The cauldron has appeared in mythology and literature throughout the ages.  Who can think of Shakespeare and not picture the three witches making their diabolical potions while chanting about newt eyes and bat wings?   

 It is not only a cooking vessel, but also a symbol of the divine feminine.   I see the cauldron as a symbol of the womb, a place of amazing growth and transformation, the place from which all life springs forth.  As a cooking vessel, I see the cauldron as a place of amazing transformation as well.   

As in the womb, a few basic elements combine to create something completely new and different.

Years and years ago, I bought a little cast iron “cauldron” on eBay.  It has been used for spirit flames, for burning the old year’s problems at Samhain, and for making black salt.   These days, I use a Dutch oven for some things, but my big soup pot is my modern cauldron.   Even a slow cooker can be used for a modern cauldron (since it seems to take nearly a year and a day for some things to cook!).

In the fall and winter, I enjoy making soups and stews and other comforting things that bring nourishment and warmth.   Humming as I work, stirring deosil for positivity, I happily putter around the kitchen around my modern-day witches’ cauldron, making culinary magic happen.  As I do so, I am reminded of the sacredness of food and flame.  I think of warmer days when the earth gives up her bounty to sustain us through the darker part of the year.

A cauldron (or a pot) is an essential tool for me.  Give me a pot (cauldron), wooden spoon (wand), and a good knife (athame, anyone?), and I’m quite happy.   Cooking is the most basic form of magic for me, having been doing it since I was quite young.   I recognize the individual gifts and elements each ingredient contributes to the final project, and above all, I honor the cauldron’s sacred power of transformation.   Much like Cerridwen’s cauldron, mine is also full of inspiration.

For this blog post, I will share two recipes.  One is for a soup cooked on top of the stove, and the other is for a dish that is cooked in the crock pot.

Curried Peanut Soup
I like making this for Imbolc because the spiciness and earthiness remind me that Mother Earth is awakening slowly in the northern hemisphere.  The warmth cuts through the winter’s brutal cold, and the lovely color reminds me of the sun and the first golden flowers of spring.
1 medium onion, chopped
5 or 6 cloves garlic, chopped
1 inch ginger, peeled and chopped
1-2 chilies, seeded or not, chopped
2 small sweet potatoes (about 2 cups), peeled and cubed
1/3 cup natural peanut butter
1 ½ cups coconut milk, light or regular
2-3 tablespoons coconut oil
2 tablespoons each ground cumin and hot Madras curry powder
8 cups chicken broth

In your soup pot/cauldron, heat the oil over medium heat.
Add the onions, ginger, and chilies.  Cook for 5 minutes before adding the garlic.  Cook 2-3 minutes longer.
Add the sweet potatoes, cumin, and curry powder.  Stir to coat everything with the spices.
Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat and allow the soup to simmer until the sweet potatoes are tender (15 minutes).
Add the peanut butter and stir well. 
Ladle the chunky parts of the soup into a blender. Add the coconut milk and puree until smooth.
Return the mixture to the pot.  Heat gently. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Slow Cooker Baked Beans
This recipe makes a pot full of sticky sweet, rich and satisfying baked beans.
½ bacon, cut into 1” pieces
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 ½ cups navy beans, cleaned and sorted
¼ cup dark brown sugar
¼ cup tomato paste
¼ cup molasses
½ cup apple juice or cider
2 teaspoons each ras el hanout and smoked paprika
Salt and pepper to taste
Water to cover the beans

If you are cooking beans in a crock pot/slow cooker as in this recipe, you don’t necessarily have to soak them.  
Put the chopped onion in the crock pot first.  Then, add the bacon and the beans.
Dollop in the tomato paste and brown sugar. Pour over the molasses.
Add the liquid and stir to combine.   Cook on low for 8 hours or high for about 5-6 hours, until beans are tender.
Season with salt, pepper, ras el hanout, and smoked paprika before serving. 


stregajewellry said...

Cooking and kitchen magic, two of the simplest and most basic forms of magic and my favorites to use. Thanks for that recipe for the soup with peanut butter! I must try it. Anything with peanut butter is magic in my book.

Nar said...

Thank you for your comment! It is a very good soup, I assure you. I have some in the fridge right now, actually. :D

Ravensong said...

I really enjoyed your blog! :) I also enjoy cooking magic. I will definitely be trying your baked beans recipe although I am not familiar with the one spice (ras el hanout)--I will look it up! :)

Nar said...

Thank you for stopping by! Ras-el-Hanout is a Moroccan spice blend. It means "Top of the Shop" or something like that. Everyone has his or her own variation. It can have up to 70 spices! I have a recipe on here somewhere, but you can also buy it from spicesinc.com. I like that site a lot.