Winter is starting to make its unwelcome presence felt, although that Indian summer is stubbornly holding on. It's getting darker a littler earlier every night, and even as I prepared the photographs for this post, the room has darkened noticeably. Sigh.
At least winter gives you an excuse to wear warm comfy clothing, and in the kitchen, you can start to make thick, warming soups. My recipe for sweet potato & coconut soup ticks all the right boxes - it's healthy and tasty. My secret ingredient of a Tom Yum stockcube (packed full of Thai flavours) adds lots of vibrancy to the soup, and you can play with the chili heat to suit your own personal tastes. In the recipe below, I list the chili as being deseeded, but personally, I leave the seeds in for a little more kick.
Even the simple act of making this soup involves lots of colour - the red of the chilis, the green of the lime and the lovely orange of the sweet potato. As you cook, fragrant aromas will fill the kitchen, helping to banish those dark nights.
Some points to consider
- I use a Tom Yum stockcube in this recipe which should be readily available in any good Asian supermarket (see picture below). This stockcube can be used as the base for a Thai Tom Yum soup and is full of the sharp fragances and aromas that we have come to associate with Thai cooking. Like any stock cube, it contains salt, so keep that in mind when seasoning the soup.
- Make sure to shake the coconut milk before opening the tin. This is to help mix back together the cream and the liquid which may have become separated while in the tin.
- Palm sugar is a form of brown sugar commonly used in Thai and Asian cooking. Again, you should be able to source in this any Asian store, but if not, you can replace with brown sugar, or even white sugar.
- Finally, I like to make my soups really thick, which means that I try to cook them with a minimum of liquid. Once I blend my soups, I then add more water/stock to bring it to the desired consistency.
|Sweet potato and coconut soup|
Ingredients (serves 4)
2 shallots, peeled and finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
1.5 cm piece fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
1/2 red chili, deseeded & chopped
2 teaspoons palm sugar (or brown sugar if not available)
3 tablespoons sherry (or dark rum)
3-4 large sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 tin of coconut milk, shaken and opened
1 Tom Yum stockcube
Fish sauce to season
Juice of 1/2 lime
Heat some cooking oil (sunflower or peanut) over a medium heat in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan. Add the shallots and sautee for a few minutes until softened.
Add the garlic, ginger and chili and continue to cook, stirring frequently for about 5 minutes until all ingredients have softened.
|Some of my favourite ingredients|
Add the palm sugar and stir until the mixture starts to carmelise. At this point, add the sherry and stir until the alcohol has evaporated and the mixture has become a little sticky.
Add the sweet potatoes to the saucepan and toss with the onion mixture. Once all the sweet potato has been coated in the mixture, pour in the coconut milk. Crumble the Tom Yum stockcube to the mixture and stir well. Add extra water to the saucepan until the vegetables are covered. Add 1 tablespoon of fish sauce and stir through.
Place the lid on the saucepan and bring the mixture to the boil. Once boiling, turn down the heat and allow to simmer, stirring frequently until the sweet potato is cooked through. Remove from the heat and allow to cool down sufficiently for blending.
Using either a handheld stick blender or a food processor, blend the soup until smooth. If too thick, just add some more water or stock until the desired consistency is reached. Stir in the lime juice and taste. At this point, I find that the soup usually requires more fish sauce, so add until you feel that you have the right balance.
Ladle the soup intb bowls and garnish as desired. Some suggestions could include dessicated coconut, coconut flakes, a spoonful of coconut cream or fresh coriander. Be creative and enjoy.