A warm, satisfying bowl of soup is the ultimate comfort food.
For many of us, our childhoods are filled with mental snapshots of slurping up Mom’s homemade chicken noodle soup or dunking a gooey grilled cheese into tomato soup poured out of a can.
There’s no competing with Mom’s medicine in a bowl, but a delicious homemade soup is within the reach of any home cook.
I’ve made more than my fair share of soups over the years, and even wrote a book on the subject. What I’ve always found to be the most challenging aspect is seasoning it correctly at the end of the cooking process.
A big pot of ingredients can be tricky to pull together into a soup, with just the right amount of salt, acid, savory, sweet and sometimes heat. Obviously much depends on the ingredients themselves. When I make a pot of tomato soup, my final seasoning varies each time, depending on the sweetness or acidity of the tomatoes. Sometimes a pinch of salt does the trick, sometimes it’s a spoonful of sugar.
This week’s recipe, Curried Sweet Potato Peanut Soup, is no exception. The sweet potatoes and peanut butter maybe especially sweet or not very sweet at all. Vegetable broths can be on the salty side or add an unexpected sweetness to the soup. Those variables will require last-minute adjustments in the way of more lime juice, sugar or salt.
The key is to take your time and adjust the seasonings in small increments. Remember, it’s much easier to add than to subtract. Taste and adjust, then taste and adjust again, until you have all the flavors balanced. It’s not hard, but it does take a little patience.
You’ll be rewarded with a sophisticated and complex bowl of soup. All you need now is to garnish it (all good soups have a garnish) with crunchy peanuts, a showering of cilantro and a dollop of plain yogurt, for a memorably comforting meal on a crisp fall Minnesota night.
Curried Sweet Potato Peanut Soup
Note: Creamy and luscious, this vegetarian soup is a warm welcome into fall. When puréeing hot soup in a blender, never fill the blender more than halfway. Remove the plastic piece in the lid and cover with a dish towel to prevent steam from building. From Meredith Deeds.
• 1 tbsp. oil
• 1 medium onion, chopped
• 1 tbsp. finely chopped ginger
• 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
• 1 tbsp. curry powder
• 1/2 tsp. salt
• 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
• 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
• 2 lb. orange-fleshed sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-in. cubes
• 3 c. vegetable broth
• 1 (15-oz.) can unsweetened coconut milk
• 1/3 c. creamy peanut butter
• 1 tbsp. fresh lime juice
• 1 tbsp. light brown sugar
Garnishes, if desired
• Chopped roasted peanuts
• Cilantro leaves
• Plain yogurt
• Lime wedges
Heat the oil in a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes, or until softened. Add the ginger and garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add curry powder, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add sweet potatoes and broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, until sweet potatoes are tender. Remove from heat and whisk in coconut milk and peanut butter. Let mixture cool slightly.
Working in batches, purée sweet potato mixture until very smooth (see Note). Pour back into pot and cook over medium heat, just until hot. Taste and season with lime juice, brown sugar, and salt, if necessary.
Just before serving, ladle soup into bowls; top with peanuts, cilantro and yogurt, if desired, and garnish with lime wedges.
Meredith Deeds is a cookbook author and food writer from Edina. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Instagram at @meredithdeeds.