Wednesday, November 3, 2010

west african peanut soup via winnipeg

One crazy winter, I decided to visit friends in Winnipeg in February.

I was living on the West Coast and missing snow, so I thought February would be a perfect time to go to Winterpeg.

I packed my boots and my warmest socks and bravely flew away from the cherry blossoms.

I landed in winter. In fact, it was so wintery that my friend had plugged her car in while it sat for 10 minutes in the airport parking lot.

Perfect, I thought. That was when I could still feel my toes.

Little did I know I was in for a weekend of the coldest weather Winnipeg had that winter. A cold spell settled down over the city, and I was soon seeing billboards advertising the –44 weather. That’s –44 without the wind chill.

I have many cold memories of that weekend. One of my warmest memories – besides seeing my good friends – was a bowl of soup.

I was happily wandering around McNally Robinson, picking up books and thinking that I could stay in that warm haven forever, when I realized it was lunchtime.

The bookstore had a little café in the corner, and I took a chance on the West African peanut soup. It was exactly what I didn’t know I wanted: rich and smooth and earthy, with a spicy kick.

After the first bite, I began plotting how I could get the recipe. When I put my spoon down, I gathered up my bowl and my courage and went back to the counter.

I praised the soup and meekly asked if they could tell me what was in it. The friendly cashier said they might have the recipe and ducked into the back. He came back with the recipe printed out – the recipe I now have encased in a plastic page protector in my recipe binder.

Turns out that besides peanuts, the soup is full of carrots and sweet potatoes that make it thick and light at the same time.

I still love it. I’ve made a couple changes to the original recipe, primarily so that it doesn’t make enough to feed a small army (or bookstore). But it is still just the right bowl of soup to eat on a cold winter day – even if you live on the coast and that means pouring rain.

west african peanut soup

still a big pot of soup – probably enough to serve 8 - 10

2 tbsp. olive oil
1 big onion, roughly chopped
1 tbsp. fresh ginger, grated
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
4 big carrots, chopped
2 lbs sweet potatoes (3 or 4), diced
28 oz. crushed tomatoes
1/2 c. peanut butter
8 c. vegetable stock
1/2 – 1 tsp. salt

Heat heavy-bottomed pot over medium-low heat. Pour in oil and sauté onion until translucent, about 5 – 10 minutes.

Add ginger and sauté 3 more minutes, stirring often.

Add cayenne pepper, carrots, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, peanut butter, vegetable stock and 1/2 tsp. of salt. Bring to a boil; then simmer until the vegetables are well cooked, about 20 minutes. Stir often.

Remove from heat and purée. Taste and decide if you’d like to add that other 1/2 tsp. of salt. Grind pepper over. Drop a dollop of honey on, and stir in.

This post is part of Fall Fest 2010, which is a community food blogging event to write about (and eat!) seasonal produce. For more recipes inspired by root vegetables, try these:

Gilded Fork: Hidden Jewels of Harvest
Cooking Channel: Roasted Beet Salad
Food Network UK: Return to Your Roots
Food2: Easy Roasted Root Veggies
Food Network: Root Veggie Sides to Try
Healthy Eats: In-Season Root Veggies
Pinch My Salt: Rutabaga Puff
The Sister Project: Sweet and Savory Soup Too Good to Hide

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