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Tuesday’s Tidbits (& Sips): 03 November 2009

Autumn is one of my favorite seasons for many reasons.  It brings with it cooler temperatures and chilly breezes that herald the return, in a big way, of the knitting itch.  We get to enjoy the reds, oranges and yellows of the foliage that are some of the most beautiful colors nature has to offer.  (Unless you’re in my neighborhood where the sycamore foliage simply turns rot brown and falls to the ground, covering every available surface…)  Last, but not least, this time of year means fall foods like hot spiced apple cider, caramel apples, spice cookies, pumpkin pie and hearty soups.  And soup, my friends, is what I want to share with you today; in particular, my recipe for Curried Sweet Potato Soup, a recipe created out of necessity.

We had quite a few sweet potatoes sitting around the kitchen from the last few shipments of the community supported agriculture (CSA) program we took part in this year.  I absolutely love sweet potatoes, but I wanted something other than your standard marshmallow-topped sticky-sweet baked affair.  So, there they sat, waiting for inspiration to strike.  While trolling the internets for some inspiration, I came across a myriad of recipes for sweet potato soup – some simple, some complex, some spicy, some not.  Unable to decide on exactly which one I should try, I decided to create one of my own.  The results?  Delicious!!  (If I do say so myself…  And I do!!)

This is a hardy, creamy soup that has a nice spiced flavor with a little bit of burn at the end.  It’s a great make-ahead soup that reheats well and can be made completely vegan.  I love this soup so much that I’ve made it twice in the past two weeks.

It is best served with toasted crusty bread, perhaps rubbed with a little garlic.  The last batch Andrew and I ate with some herb-laden no-knead bread that we made:

Is your mouth watering yet?  Want to try the soup for yourself?  Well, here’s the recipe:

Curried Sweet Potato Soup

[Serves 6 to 8]

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

3 medium sweet potatoes
6 tbsp. olive oil, divided
1 1/2 stalks celery, leaves removed and diced
1 medium onion, diced
1 carrot, peeled and diced
1 apple, peeled, cored and diced
3 tbsp. ginger, minced
4 large cloves of garlic, minced
1 1/2 tbsp. garam masala
1 tbsp. curry powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ground coriander seeds
5 cups vegetable or chicken stock
13.5 oz. can of coconut milk*

  1. Clean the sweet potatoes and cut them into rounds about 2 inches thick.
  2. Place the sweet potato rounds on a baking sheet.
  3. Brush the sweet potato rounds on both sides using 4 tbsp. olive oil. and salt and pepper both sides.
  4. Bake the sweet potatoes for about an hour, until the flesh of the sweet potatoes offers no resistance when poked with a fork.
  5. Allow the sweet potato rounds to cool completely then remove the skin and cut the flesh into smaller pieces.**
  6. Meanwhile, heat the remaining 2 tbsp. of olive oil over medium-high heat in a heavy-bottom pot.
  7. Cook the celery, onion, carrot, apple, ginger and garlic for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions and celery are soft.
  8. Add the garam masala, curry powder, salt, ground cumin and ground coriander seeds and fry, stirring constantly, for 30 seconds.
  9. Remove the pot from the heat and add about a 1/2 cup of the stock to stop the cooking.
  10. Add the sweet potato flesh and stir to coat.
  11. Add the remaining stock and return the pot to the heat.
  12. Bring to a boil then turn the heat to low and simmer, covered, for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  13. Remove from the heat and cool, uncovered, for 5 minutes.
  14. Using an immersion blender, blend the soup until smooth.***
  15. Add the coconut milk and stir to blend.
  16. Reheat the soup over medium heat for about 10 minutes before serving.

* If you don’t have a can of coconut milk but do have dessicated (not sweetened) coconut on hand, you can make your own coconut milk.  In a small covered pot, heat 2 cups of dessicated coconut and 2 cups of water over very low heat until it is frothy.  Remove the pot from the heat, let it cool and then strain the mixture through a fine mesh strainer or a double thickness of cheese cloth.  Add the resulting liquid, which should be about 1 1/4 cups in volume, to the soup in place of the canned coconut milk.  This is the technique that I employed in the first batch of soup and it turned out wonderfully delicious, if not quite as thick as the batch made with canned coconut milk.
** I found that it works best to refrigerate the cooked sweet potato rounds overnight in a tightly sealed container before attempting this process.  The refrigeration helps loosen the thin skins of the sweet potato, making them easy to peel away from the flesh and resulting in the least amount of waste.
*** If you don’t have an immersion blender, as I did not while making my first batch of this soup, you can blend the soup in batches in a food processor or blender.  You may, however, want to allow the soup to cool completely if using this method.  If you’re under time constraints and must do this while the soup is still hot, be extremely careful to avoid being burned by hot spraying liquid.