Sunday, March 6, 2011

West African Peanut Soup

I was talking to someone this past week about vegetarian phases and how pleased with myself I was for shifting back to cooking meat in the past 6 months or so (of course I still tend to gravitate towards cuts of meat that I won't have to do that much hands on work with ... ground meats, pre-cut stew meat, pre-sliced fondue meat). However, maybe I haven't come as far as I thought. Last weekend I couldn't resist some sweet potatoes that were on sale at the Val-Mont. I have a pork and sweet potato stew that I copied down a while ago that I've been meaning to try, but haven't gotten around to. Before I could make the pork though, I ran across this recipe and couldn't resist. Why do I get so much more excited about cooking vegetarian (or almost vegetarian) dishes than meat-based dishes?

I've been wanting to make an African peanut stew since seeing the tennis episode on Top Chef All-Stars. I made a peanut soup a few months ago (which was delicious), but was constrained to ingredients I had on hand, so it ended up being more curry flavoured than the African soup I'd seen. According to the comments on this recipe, it's not exactly authentic, but that's okay, I'm not going for authenticity, just a general taste of peanuty tastiness.

The only changes I made to this recipe were using whole cloves as I don't have ground on hand and using peanut oil instead of vegetable oil (it is a peanut soup, right?). I also took their suggestion of drizzling with sesame oil, remembering halfway through eating. It definitely added a nice touch! The end result was a bowl of rich, peanut comfort food.

West African Peanut Soup (from Gimme Some Oven, originally Aliza Green)

2 Tbsp. peanut oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 Tbsp. minced garlic
1 Tbsp. fresh minced ginger root
2 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 (15-ounce) can crushed tomatoes (or 2 cups fresh diced tomatoes)
2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2″ cubes
3/4 cup roasted peanuts
6 cups chicken stock (or vegetable stock)
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 bunch cilantro, leaves chopped
salt and freshly-ground black pepper, to taste
1/4 tsp sesame oil

1. Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Sauté the onion until lightly browned, about 8 minutes.
2. Stir in the garlic, ginger, cumin, cinnamon, cloves, and cayenne. Sauté together 2 to 3 minutes to release their fragrance.
3. Stir in the tomatoes and sweet potatoes, and continue to cook, stirring occasionally about 5 minutes to meld the flavors.
4. Add the stock and peanuts, bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer 30 minutes.
5. Using an immersion blender, puree the soup until smooth.
6. Whisk in the peanut butter and chopped cilantro, season with salt and pepper and heat through.
7. Drizzle with sesame oil and serve.

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