On this day in 2011, I saved a recipe for African tomato and peanut soup with chickpeas, and it has been among the 400 or so others in my drafts folder ever since. This morning, I saved another recipe for African peanut soup with chickpeas. Cycles, anyone?
I think I may be becoming predictable – requiring thick, spicy soup in early January as a physical and psychological ballast against the chocolate high that was December. I like that this is hearty and creamy without being cream-of-mushroom-soup-y; peanut butter enriches it and the sweet potatoes, which have been cooked to the point of falling apart, easily melt with the push of a spoon, making a thick base for the chickpeas to hang about in.
It could be done on the stovetop, but I tend to overuse my slow cooker when it’s out, rather than clean it properly and put it away. I’m lazy like that – peeling and chopping multiple veggies is somehow easier than washing out a pot? It seems procrastination even applies to cooking.
It’s part of my mission to use up what I have, rather than source out recipes for things I want to try – which isn’t to say I don’t do that as well, because I like to and because it’s my job. But I think often in North America we have it backwards, looking up recipes and shopping for the ingredients it calls for, rather than looking in our fridge or pantry and figuring out what to do with what’s there. Or adapting a recipe – which, unless it’s baking, and sometimes even when it is, is really just a guideline – to use what would otherwise wind up in the compost bin.
I’ve had a few sad tomatoes languishing in the fruit bowl, and a baggie of sliced ends in the freezer (I know – sometimes it’s shocking that I didn’t live during the depression) that finally saw its final day of falling out of the freezer door each time I opened it. But this is soup – if you want it to have tomato in it, it could be canned diced or whole tomatoes, or tomato juice, or leftover tomato sauce from your spaghetti, or even a glug of salsa, which has the added bonus of already containing jalapenos, for added kick. Just use what you have – this is what I had. If you want it to be a more substantial meal, serve it over a shallow bowl of rice – in fact, it could be a delicious curry with a spoonful of curry paste or powder and less stock – or coconut milk instead.
Tomato & Peanut Soup with Sweet Potato & Chickpeas
1 onion, chopped
3 tomatoes, chopped, or a can of diced or whole tomatoes, with their juice
2 medium or 1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced
1 large carrot, peeled and chopped
1/4 cup chopped cilantro stems (save the leaves for garnish)
1-2 jalapeño peppers, seeded and finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, crushed
2 Tbsp. grated fresh ginger
2 tsp. chili powder
1 1/2 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. salt
4 cups (1 L) chicken or vegetable stock or water
1 19 oz. (540 mL) can chickpeas, drained
1/4-1/2 cup (or a big soup spoonful) peanut butter
a handful of torn or chopped kale (optional)
chopped peanuts and/or fresh cilantro, for garnish (optional)
To go the slow cooker route, toss everything except the kale into the bowl of a slow cooker, cover and cook on low for about 6 hours. Uncover and stir, breaking up some of the chunks of sweet potato with the back of a spoon. If you like, stir in a handful of thinly sliced kale, chard or spinach, then put the lid back on for a minute or two, until it wilts. To make it on the stovetop, heat a slick of oil in a large pot and cook the onions for a few minutes, until soft. Add the jalapeño, garlic and ginger and cook for another couple minutes, then add the spices for a minute, and then everything else except the kale. Bring to a simmer and cook for 20-30 minutes, until the veggies are very soft. Stir in the kale and cook until it wilts.
Serve topped with yogurt or peanuts or cilantro, or all of the above. Serves 8.