Nava’s Sweet and Sour Cabbage and Bread Stew


Now is the discontent of our winter.

The dozen or so of you who were reading my blog last year at this time probably remember how much I hate the snowy season.  (How much, you ask?  As much as Gepetto hates dishonesty.  As much as Ellen loves Portia.  As much as the calories in a deep-fried Mars Bar (with whipped cream on top).  As much as union disagrees with management.  As much as my eternal incredulity at the popularity of Julia Roberts.)   This morning, when I emitted a plaintive little lament about the fact that we’ve already surpassed last year’s (record-breaking) snowfall for this date, the HH helpfully piped up, “Yeah, and we’ve still got over a month more of this to go!”  Gee, thanks, sweetheart.

So, what to do about a wall of pelting snow every time you leave the house,  ice crystals forming on your eyebrows, the grey rime that coats your glasses like vaseline on a camera lens?

Make soup, that’s what.

When I was a carefree singleton* back in the early 90s, I developed a Friday evening cooking ritual.   After arriving home from work, I’d change into sweats and a T-shirt, then spend most of the evening cooking food for the following week.  By the end of the week, I was usually too pooped to socialize anyway, and I found cooking to be incredibly meditative.  (Besides, if anything better male intellectually stimulating came up instead, I wasn’t irrevocably tied to my plan; I’d just cook the following day).  I’d pack the prepared dishes into plastic containers, then freeze them for consumption later on.  A relaxing evening plus seven days of healthy, homemade food–a pretty good arrangement, I thought.

In those days, I tended to cook a lot of soups.  Perhaps I was subconsciously emulating my mom, whose chicken soup graced our stovetop every Friday evening as far back as I can remember. In fact, the very first recipe I cooked in my very first apartment was soup–split pea and ham, as I recall (which is odd, since even then I didn’t really like meat, and I’d never tasted ham at all before that–or since).  In the interim, I’ve expanded my repertoire a bit, enjoying a variety of traditional or exotic or unusual soups over the years.  With its ability to embrace any and all stray vegetables, then bathe them in a warm, soothing broth, vitamin and mineral-rich soup is an ideal meal-in-a-bowl.

Strangely, once the HH and I began seeing each other, I all but stopped making soups on Friday nights (he seemed to think our courtship should take place alongside a wine bottle rather than a stockpot).  Then, a couple of weeks ago, I received a copy of Nava Atlas’s newly released Vegan Soups and Hearty Stews for All Seasons  (this is a 4th edition of her earlier Vegetarian Soups for All Seasons) as part of the book’s virtual tour.   Suddenly, soup was back on my radar.  And I must tell you, I think this book has singlehandedly renewed my zeal for soup making.

The book is divided by season, so it made sense that the fall and winter offerings would appeal most right now, with innovative and interesting combinations like Broccoli, Apple and Peanut Soup or Almond-Brussels Sprouts Soup (which I just enjoyed for lunch today–splendid!), and classics like Hearty Barley-Bean Soup or Minestrone.  But the spring and summer were equally tantalizing, with recipes for Creole Eggplant Soup and Gingery Miso-Spinach Soup and Strawberry Colada Soup.  (Now I have yet another reason to wish winter would end soon.)

With our seemingly irrepressible mountains of snow (now taller than the HH, who is over 6 feet/1.8 meters) outside, a hearty winter stew seemed just the right antidote. This Sweet and Sour Cabbage and Bread Stew is a perfectly warming, filling, tasty combination, with a substantial broth, in which you simmer a variety of winter veggies, all imbued with a subtle sweet and piquant tang. Initially, the HH was a bit reluctant to try it (paradoxically, the guy will eat anything and everything if it’s derived from an animal, but is entirely unadventurous when it comes to vegetable dishes).  After the first few spoonfuls, however, he pronounced it “a keeper” and was content to have nothing more than this for dinner.

I’m happy to say that I’m even looking forward to getting back in the swing of Friday evening soup-a-thons. And these days, I won’t be cooking alone  (hear that, HH?).

Mum, you know that we’d love to help you cook, too, if we could. There’s just this little matter of the ‘no opposable thumbs’ thing. But we’re still more than happy to help clean up the leftovers.” 

* Okay, I was never “carefree,” but more like “unattached, at loose ends, having no weekend plans.”  The closest I’ve ever gotten to “carefree” was probably during that time before I embraced all the responsibilities and anxieties of adulthood–like, maybe, when I was three.


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  1. I love Nava’s soup cookbook. Any soup you make from it will be fantastic. The Almond-Brussels sprouts intrigues me!

  2. Hey cabbage soup twin! (smile) I love the nest of bread cubes. I’m pretty sure I could amp my bread to soup ratio that way!

  3. I hate the snowy season too. In fact, my mom just brought up the idea of flying to NYC for te weekend next week and I said, “Can we go in May instead?” I never thought I’d turn down NYC… but if I’m going to pay the money to go, I’d much rather walk around in the warmth than cold, snowy ugliness!

  4. I spent a childhood longing to see snow so I still have a sneaking desire for the stuff even though I now know it is very cold and inconvenient – but I still prefer it over a heatwave! And an excuse to make more soup is always a good thing!

    Am glad Nava’s new soup book is out as it has reminded me I need to make more from her old cookbook that I own – it does have lots of excellent ideas but I am a little unsure about sweet and sour with bread – sounds like it should be with rice or noodles. However I would be willing to give it a try!

  5. Yeah, I’ve never quite been carefree either. Ugh. I do love soup, though!

  6. I’m so sick of this gross weather!!!

    But that soup looks amazing…one of my favorite ways to enjoy soup is with bread dipped in. YUM!

  7. My favorite part about soup (disregarding the nutritional, culinary, and comfort-in-a-bowl incentives) is its pantry friendliness. I don’t think I’ve ever bought ingredients at the store with soup in mind, but it’s always there for you when the leftover vegetables are looking a little sad 🙂

  8. LOL i love your posts – they are always so witty and funny!

  9. I have to admit – if I were flipping through the cookbook, this is not a recipe I would have bookmarked. Your willingness to vouch for it, however, makes me want to give it a try 😀 Your photos make it look delicious!

  10. I totally agree–winter in Toronto can be gross. Especially today: it’s freezing! But this weekend is going to be good and warm so don’t fret. And at least we have delicious chunky soups like this one to last us the winter. I’m impressed with the calorie vs fibre totals for this recipe. 6 g of fibre for 230 cals are quite good numbers.

  11. I hate this weather too – hang in there!!

  12. I really love snow, I wish we had more of it. I can come and shovel some snow for you!
    That cookbook sounds mighty interesting.

  13. I always enjoy a nice soup recipe, and this sounds wonderful. I’m with you on this weather, I can’t wait for Summer to get here!

  14. This looks delicious – I would probably love that book. I wish so much that I wasn’t the only one on my little family of 3 to love soup…

    Your first line had me in stitches! February is the most evil month, but once we get through it it’s so much easier to deal with!

  15. i thought i was the only one who hated snow. seriously when it starts coming down i get so mad… i hate it!!! the only time i can tolerate it is if i can stay in my pj’s all day and watch movies.

    i do love soup though on a snowy day 🙂

  16. Ricki, I love you. Really. I was just confessing to my mom that the only time I eat cabbage is in stir-fry at Thai restaurants (and how ashamed I was about neglecting such a wonderful veggie…) I knew it would be prefect in a soup but wasn’t sure how to work with it or what you add to it… now you’ve posted this and I’m in heaven.

  17. Ooh that’s a really interesting recipe! I do not use enough cabbage in my cooking! Soups are my recent favorite thing to cook. Thanks for the idea.

  18. We got yet another snowstorm yesterday! My driveway is one big sheet of ice. 11 “snow events” this season so far – that is a ton for us here on Long Island.

    I love that book – I have the original and the vegan version. I have been making the foccacia recipe for years and years!

  19. Yum. I’ve never had sweet and sour cabbage but this dish looks so compelling. I love the idea of bread cubes nestled in. How comforting!

  20. Yuuuuuuum. I was trying to figure out what to do with the cabbage sitting in my fridge!

    I too do a lot of cooking on Friday nights; it’s my favorite way to de-stress after a long week. I even don the sweatpants and t-shirt too 🙂

  21. I am also sick and tired of this winter!!

    The soup looks great. I have the older version of this book.. I love that it’s divided by seasons..

    Soup is my favorite food I think.

  22. Soup with cabbage is delish! and courtship beside a stockpot sounds reasonable to me.

  23. oooh my gosh – this soup looks glorious, Ricki! i’m going to have to make this soon! it’s warming me up just looking at it! while you’re not a snowy weather person – i’m not a summer person. i just can’t take the heat! aahhahhhaaa! seems like most people love warmer weather – i think the only thing i love about it is that i get to wear flip flops!

  24. There is nothing more soothing than soup. I have cabbage that I intend to use for soup but I’m trying to work up the motivation to do all that chopping!

  25. OH WOW. that sounds amazing. i am totally making this on sunday. i love cabbage!

  26. this sounds really intriguing–glad i’ve come around to cabbage!!

  27. i feel your pain about the winter!! This soup definitely looks warming and cozy.

  28. I try to surround myself with citrus to make the winter seem a little bit less gloomy… I think it’s working so far! Bundles of meyer lemons and blood oranges do wonders for one’s mood.

  29. I can’t believe what a comeback cabbage has made. I’m sure it’s the new power food.

  30. Leave off the sugar and swap vinegar for the lemon juice and this could be my cabbage soup. I always use vegetable soups as a way to detox from the holidays but then I’m stuck with cold gloomy February and I’m sick of soup. I guess I should check out the book for more ideas.

  31. Ah, to be three and careless again! 😛

    The stew looks delicious! I love the idea of a cookbook with recipes divided by season! Very cool.

  32. Happy Herbivore,
    The feeling is mutual, but for me it’s all the Mexican recipes 🙂

    Susan G,
    I love the term, “snow events”! Makes it sound like a concert, or something. . .much nicer than snowSTORM. 😉

    We’re sweatpants twins! See, we’ll get along just great once we’re in-laws. 😉

    Ditto on the winter sentiments. Soup is definitely my favorite food this week, anyway!

    Even though I can’t wear flip-flops (weird feet), I STILL love summer! You’re welcome to all this snow and cold any time. 😉

    What do you mean, “comeback”?? Hasn’t it always been a power food. . .?? (I’m devastated!) 😉

    It’s a great book. I got so excited when I saw all the soup recipes with ingredient combinations I’d never thought of before–I mean, brussels sprouts and almonds?? But it was great. 🙂

    Yes, wouldn’t that be nice? At least I haven’t grown that far away psychologically, anyway!!

  33. The soup looks really good! I think I want to get this book!

  34. This soup looks amazing and that book sounds so interesting. I love creative soups. This one looks rich and hearty without being heavy. I’ll have to try it.

  35. I’ve been dreaming of a nice soup involving bread, so once again, Ricki, you have perfect timing.
    I hope you are well!

  36. Thanks soooo so much for your honesty, Ricki. I’m seriously going to consider changing my blog background. It might be a while before I change (because I’m lazy and never seem to get around to things like that!) but I’m pretty sure I’m going to.

  37. I’ve been making soups more often recently but I rarely come across a soup recipe I really love. I don’t know if it’s me being picky about soup, or if it’s that I’m not finding the right recipes. I do really love making soup (and vegetable stock) though. Very relaxing. And wow good for you for how you used to spend Friday cooking meals for the week. I said we would do that on Sundays (or at least cook 1 or 2 extra things) but we haven’t been doing that.


  1. […] side, add it right into the soup itself, or use pasta instead of grains. Dumplings, croutons or big hunks of sourdough can enhance the appeal of an otherwise “plain” […]

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