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Thai Sweet Potato Soup

Way back in 2007, when I first launched my cookery school in Israel, I made the fatal mistake of NOT beginning my June class of that year with one of my trademark soups. I figured that, given the soup-like weather, a homemade granola would go down better, but instead my students felt cheated. "We eat soup ALL year round," they assured me, "even if it means cranking up the air-conditioning first." I assure you that this spectacular Thai-Inspired Sweet Potato Soup is well worthy of the few extra shekels on your summer electricity bill, and will surely be enjoyed the whole year through. Don't be scared off by the ingredients list, as you most likely have many of these at home, and try NOT to omit the deliciously different pumpkin seed garnish, as it offers essential contrast of flavor, color and texture.

2 tablespoons (30 ml) canola OR coconut oil 1 large onion, chopped 2 to 3 cloves crushed garlic 2 tablespoons grated ginger* 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest* 2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped 2 large potatoes, peeled and chopped 4 large carrots, peeled and sliced 5 x 250 ml cups parve chicken stock (Ina Paarman is best) 2 tablespoons (30 ml) dark brown sugar 1 teaspoon (5 ml) ground coriander 1 teaspoon (5 ml) ground cumin 2 teaspoons (10 m) curry powder/paste Salt and ground pepper to taste 1 can coconut milk/liquid Garnish details below 1: Heat the oil and fry the onions for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally till softened, then add garlic and ginger and cook 1 minute. 2: Stir in vegetables, zest, ground spices, curry, salt, pepper, and brown sugar, then add stock and cook covered for 25 minutes till vegetables are soft. 3: Add coconut milk and blend till very smooth, then taste for salt and pepper, and serve hot with pumpkin seed garnish, or chopped cilantro. PUMPKIN SEED GARNISH: Heat 1 teaspoon of oil in a small pot, add 1/2 cup shelled pumpkin seeds, 1/2 teaspoon each paprika and curry powder, and a generous pinch of salt, and fry a few minutes till golden. Seeds can be prepared ahead and are wonderful on all orange soups. *The best place to store fresh ginger is in the freezer. Peel a large chunk, wrap in foil, and grate while frozen. No more stringy threads and you always have it available. Substitute zest with a teaspoon of lemon juice if easier and use lemon grass if at all possible! COOK'S NOTES: Substitute curry powder with a generous pinch of chilli flakes if desired. You can also use butternut instead of sweet potato. Soup serves 6 to 8.

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