Colleen Myers has been a vegetarian for over two decades. The Calgary native decided to stop eating meat after she saw how factory-farmed chickens were being raised near her home at the age of 12.
“I realized I was not ethically aligned with that,” she told the Georgia Straight in an interview at Heirloom Vegetarian Restaurant (1509 West 12th Avenue), where Myers is the new executive chef. “I was quite mortified by the practice.”
As a teenager, Myers moved with her family to Prince Rupert and began working in the restaurant industry. In 2004, she relocated to Squamish and eventually opened her own restaurant, Zephyr Café.
“I noticed a real lack of the food I wanted to eat in Squamish—which was vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, organic, and local meat where possible,” Myers recalled. “So I opened Zephyr Café in 2008, and we hit that trend bang-on. The minute we opened our doors it was very, very successful, and I was able to be creative with my own menu and just kind of learn the ins and outs of vegetarian restaurants. I sold it a year and a half ago, but it’s still running.”
Myers was working in catering when she met Heirloom owner Gus Greer in 2014. The two started talking and realized they shared similar ideas about how to run a vegetarian restaurant, and Myers was hired in February to revamp the two-year-old South Granville restaurant’s plant-based menu. A coconut, carrot, and candied-ginger soup, similar to the one she shares a recipe for below, is now one of Heirloom’s rotating soups.
“It’s something I’ve made for a very long time, and the reason is because I love ginger and there are always carrots in the kitchen,” Myers said. “One day I didn’t have enough ginger for a recipe so I tried candied ginger, and it worked so well. Back in the day, I used to add milk to it, but as I started using coconut milk, it got better. When people ask me for a soup, this is a soup that will surprise people with how good it tastes. It just kind of evolved, and the flavours go well together.”
Myers, who has a gluten sensitivity, uses potatoes to thicken the soup, instead of flour or other starches.
“It adds denseness,” she explained. “For this one, we’re chopping large chunks of vegetable, boiling them, and then putting them in a blender, which is incredibly easy.”
Colleen Myers’s coconut, carrot, and candied ginger soup
3 Tbsp (45 mL) coconut oil
2 Tbsp (30 mL) ground cumin
2 Tbsp (30 mL) ground coriander
¼ cup (60 mL) crushed garlic
2 cups (500 mL) roughly chopped white or yellow onion
6 large carrots, peeled and sliced into thin coins
2 russet potatoes, peeled and roughly chopped
½ cup (125 mL) candied ginger
1 Tbsp (15 mL) salt
2 cups (500 mL) vegetable stock
3 cups (750 mL) water
1 can (14 oz [400 mL]) coconut milk
1 Tbsp (15 mL) lemon juice or apple cider vinegar
Pinch cayenne pepper (optional)
- Put coconut oil, cumin, coriander, garlic, and onion in a large, heavy stockpot and cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes until onions are translucent.
- Add remaining ingredients, except for lemon juice or vinegar and cayenne. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 30 minutes or until vegetables are tender.
- Stir in lemon juice or vinegar and cayenne. Carefully transfer mixture to a blender and purée until smooth. Return to pot and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Yield: 10 servings. Recipe has not been tested by the Georgia Straight.