Cup of comfort, redux

December 14, 2009

There are some things you can cook that do the culinary equivalent of settling you down in your favorite chair, with your favorite blankie, a fire in the fireplace, good blues on the stereo, a brand new book and an evening of solitude.

I discovered one of them tonight.

Curried sweet potato soup has firmly established itself on my Top 10 comfort foods chart, with a bullet. This is some warming, friendly, loving soup right here. (Note: I have not taken a photo because there’s nothing special to photograph about it. See the butternut squash soup of a few days ago; it looks about the same. Same mug, too.)

I came home with no real intention as to what I wanted to cook for dinner. It would have probably been an apple-and-cheese night, but I’ve been gone so much of late I’ve let the cheese stash run low. (Must go to Whole Foods when I’m in LR tomorrow and fix that.) It’s warmer than it’s been, but I’m in a pissy mood, and soup always suits when that’s the case.

I was thinking in terms of West African sweet potato and peanut soup, but when I went to the pantry to gather ingredients, I discovered I’m near-’bout out of peanut butter (as that is something I don’t use all that often). Got a big jar of it at work, where I eat it on graham crackers for breakfast or a snack, but none here. OK. Plan B.

The sweet potato-peanut soup called for coconut milk and I had coconut milk in my hand when I was standing at the kitchen counter contemplating my spice rack. I’d been perusing menus for a couple of Indian restaurants, online, because I was in that kind of mood, and coconut curry pinged into my head. And I know I’ve seen at least one recipe for sweet potato soup that included coconut milk, and besides, I used it in the butternut squash soup and they’re pretty close in flavor/texture.

So I nuked a big sweet potato (probably 3/4 of a pound), and sauteed half an onion and a couple of cloves of garlic while it was nuking. Sauteed some minced ginger, too, but I’m going to replace that with powdered ginger the next time because minced leaves little minces that evade my immersion blender. If you like little chewy ginger flavor explosions, go ‘head on with the minced. I peeled the barely-cool potato and whacked it into big chunks, threw it in with the onion and some chicken stock and some curry powder and a teaspoon of brown sugar in case I’d gotten too much savory in with the sweet.

Twenty minutes later, I came back to it with the immersion blender, added coconut milk and a bit of water because I thought it was a little thick, and tasted.

M’mmmmm.

Here’s the recipe, with adjustments I’ll make next time based on a couple of observations this time, and I’m upping the quantities just so it’ll use a whole can of coconut milk. I put the other half of my can in the freezer in a plastic thingy, figuring I’ll come up with something to use it for before long.

  • 2 large sweet potatos (about a pound and a half)
  • 1 medium onion, diced fine
  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced (about a tablespoon minced)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 1/2 to 2 tsp. curry powder
  • 1 1/2 to 2 tsp ginger
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 2 tsp brown sugar
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 1/2 can water

Bake the sweet potatos. I nuked mine, but they tend to have stringy bits in them when they’re nuked that they generally don’t have when they’re baked. The texture’s just different. Allow them to cool, and peel and cut them in big chunks. I suspect you could achieve the same thing by peeling the raw sweet potatos, cutting them in chunks, and boiling them in the broth until tender. That’d be quicker, too.

Saute the onion until soft, add the garlic and saute for another minute. Add chicken stock, ginger, curry powder and potato chunks. Cover and simmer 30 minutes. Taste and add brown sugar or adjust other spices as necessary (remember, the coconut milk will increase the sweetness slightly.) Puree soup in blender or food processor, or with immersion blender; add coconut milk and enough water to thin to the desired consistency. Return to heat until just heated through; do not boil.

This is not a bold soup; it is a very gentle, very friendly soup. Some people will prefer it with more bite to it, something easily remedied by upping the curry powder, adding some garam masala, or simply a shake or two of hot sauce or a sprinkle of cayenne. Or adding a jalapeno or Thai chile to the saute at the start. On another night, I might want it spicier; tonight, I didn’t.

I didn’t even fix anything to go with it. About the only thing I might have wanted was a plain old Saltine or two or three; just a little crunch and salt.

This one goes in the lexicon. I’ll be making it again. You and y’mama ‘n ’em try it next time you want your food to love you.

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