Back in my university days I remember popping into a cafe on the University of Toronto campus to pick up a quick and filling lunch. They frequently served Italian Wedding Soup, which I was a big fan of. There was something about the little balls of chewy pasta, paired with greens and meat balls that was satisfying from both a textural and flavour perspective. I’ve been trying to create something similar since we embraced a plant based and mostly gluten free diet, which didn’t seem possible until we took a tour of the Bob’s Red Mill factory in Oregon and I found myself coming home with a big bag of sorghum grains. I was familiar with the flour, having used it in many gluten free recipes, but I had never seen the full grains prior to this.
So what is the deal with sorghum anyway? The flour is frequently used in gluten free baking, and I have come across a few recommendations to pop the whole grains, like you would corn kernels. I haven’t tried this myself yet, we have quickly gone through our bag of whole grains and will need to track down another one. I am definitely curious to give it a go, as we are big popcorn fans and it might be fun to switch things up a bit. Sorghum is a gluten free ancient grain, rich in antioxidants, fibre and a variety of vitamins and minerals, making it a great variation on more common grains, like quinoa and brown rice. You can find out more information on Sorghum here. It requires a longer cooking time than quinoa, but is well worth the time invested.
My first couple experiments with this lovely grain ended up a bit of a disaster, I didn’t cook them long enough and they were on the wrong side of chewy. I finally hit a sweet spot with this recipe, where they are cooked to the perfect level of chewiness and give a pretty good imitation of the little balls of pasta I was so fond of back in the day. I purchased some za’atar seasoning at a farmer’s market stall in New Orleans during our travels, and there was something about the flavour profile that I felt would lend itself well to this dish. It’s definitely not within the typical Italian flavour profile, but it works! I added eggplant and zucchini to the dish, which creates a lovely creaminess in the final product.
This is an Instant Pot recipe that I have not yet tackled on the stove top, feel free to play around with the recipe and please let me know how you make out with it!
Hearty Za’atar and Sorghum Soup
Drizzle Avocado oil
1 small eggplant, peeled and cubed
2 shallots, finely diced
4 cloves garlic, crushed
½ cup sorghum
1 cup lentils of choice (I used split urad, red lentils would also give a velvety smoothness, beluga, du puy or brown lentils would lend a chewier texture)
1 Tbsp Za’atar seasoning
1 tsp all purpose seasoning
1 tsp herbamare or sea salt
6 cups filtered water
2 cups cauliflower, cut into small pieces
2 cups spinach, cut in chiffonade
Juice of 1 lemon
Fresh cracked pepper
Handful toasted pine nuts
Chili flakes or hot sauce (optional)
Heat the avocado oil on “normal” sauté setting in your instant pot. Add the eggplant cubes, and sauté until soft. Add shallots and garlic, and sauté until soft, about 8–10 mins. Stir in the sorghum, lentils, Za’atar seasoning, all purpose seasoning, Herbamare or sea salt, and water. Attach the lid and bring to high pressure for 20 minutes. Quick release and remove the lid.
Add cauliflower and spinach, being to a boil and let simmer 5 minutes. Finish with fresh squeezed lemon juice, toasted pine nuts, salt and fresh cracked pepper and serve immediately. Hot sauce and/or chili flakes compliment this dish nicely.