I don’t know why, but people tend to think that all the pretty-looking food must be overly sophisticated, difficult to make or requires a lot of effort to be prepared. Nothing more wrong! Making this pretty looking and exceptionally delicious soup, took me about 30 minutes. There is no reason to be afraid of using ingredients we are not entirely familiar with. Experimenting in the kitchen leads to more varied and more interesting diet. Especially that nowadays most of the foreign ingredients are widely available and not even more expensive than our own, traditional ingredients!
Coconut milk, for instance. Hard to tell why, but many people still don’t use it in their kitchens. I have to admit that for me the breakthrough moment was my trip to Southeast Asia, where many dishes are based on coconut milk. Until then, I wasn’t quite sure of how I could use coconut milk in my kitchen. I wasn’t sure if I’d like the flavour of the dishes cooked with it. But oh my, I simply love it now!
Cooking with coconut milk, turmeric, lemongrass, galangal or ginger, chillies, oh how much I love the smell and look of the food cooked using those ingredients. So colourful, flavoursome and aromatic.
What if you are not interested in travelling and all the ingredients mentioned above sound to you like black magic rather than something you could possible use in your kitchen? My mum is a great example here. She has never been to Asia but she really likes Asian food. She even bought many ingredients required in cooking Asian food (like shrimp paste, fish sauce, soy sauce, mirin, cooking sake etc). But what now? Well, try, fail and then succeed. There is no other way than learning. Nobody is born with a complete knowledge of one’s native cuisine and skills needed to prepare it.
Sometimes we are so used to our ‘normal’ diet, we don’t even think about venturing out of our comfort zone. But there is such a diversity of foods out there, it really is worth experimenting. Sometimes we decide we don’t like the dish just by the look of it, without even tasting it. It’s natural that we are not very keen to eat something what has never been a part of our traditional diet, but there is no harm in trying, is there? ^^ I remember my first ever octopus. I honestly didn’t think I would ever eat something so odd-looking. Or my first ever shrimp. Can you imagine that I was 22 years old, when I tried my first ever shrimp? Before I went to Japan, four years ago, I was an absolute seafood-virgin! Seafood is not really a part of Polish traditional cuisine, especially if you come from the South, 11-hours drive away from the sea. So, naturally, I needed some convincing before I even agreed to try shrimps, octopus, squid or (God forbid!) sushi. And now seafood has become one of my favourite foods. I love travelling to places close to the sea, nothing better than a fresh seafood and fish! I will never forget freshly grilled fish from Bosnia or crabs from Vietnam. Incredibly good!
All I’m trying to say here, is that food doesn’t necessarily have to be just ‘fuel’. Sure, food is what gives us energy but that doesn’t mean it has to be boring. You can make it fun, especially if you like cooking. Make it a challenge for yourself, leave your comfort zone and venture out, I am sure you will find something new and exciting, which will possibly become one of your favourite foods. Good luck!
SWEET POTATO AND COCONUT SOUP
for the soup
4 sweet potatoes
thumb-sized ginger piece
2 cloves of garlic
400ml coconut milk
700ml vegetable stock
2tbsp vegetable oil
1tsp chilli oil (optional)
2tsp ground cardamon
1tsp chilli flakes
1tsp curry powder
1tsp turmeric powder
for the garnish
1 red pepper
handful of fresh spinach
for the croutons
2 bread rolls or sourdough bread
1/4 cup olive oil
3tbsp grated parmesan cheese
pinch of salt
freshly ground pepper
HOW TO MAKE?
1. Let’s start from making the soup. Peel and chop the onion, sweet potato and carrots. Peel and finely chop garlic. Peel and finely grate the ginger.
2. Heat up the oil in a big saucepan, add onion with a small pinch of salt and cook for about 10 minutes. Remember to stir often.
3. Add sweet potato, carrot, ginger and garlic and mix well. Add all the spices. Cook for about 2-3 minutes. Add coconut milk.
4. Let it simmer for about 5 minutes, then add the vegetable stock. Cover the saucepan with a lid and let it simmer for about 1013 minutes, over low heat.
5. Using a hand or stand blender, blend the soup until smooth. Try and season to taste with salt and pepper.
6. Time to make your croutons. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
7. Cut the bread or bread rolls into small cubes. Bread should be at least 1-day old, so it’s not too soft.
8. Place the bread cubes in a large bowl, add olive oil, parmesan cheese, salt, pepper and mix it well with a spatula.
9. Spread the croutons on the baking tray and place in the oven. Bake for about 10 minutes or until golden brown and crispy. You can move them around from time to time while baking. Remember, that the older the bread, the quicker they will become very crispy and golden. Take out of the oven.
10. Prepare the soup garnish. Heat up a small pan and throw the coconut flakes. We need to slightly toast them, on a dry pan. Do not use any oil! Remove from the pan.
11. To the same pan, add oil and them throw the sliced red pepper. After the pepper softened, add the spinach and spices. Remember that the spinach cooks very quickly, and the pepper needs some time to soften. At the end, add toasted coconut flakes and mix together.
12. Pour the soup into the bowls, add some topping, you can additionally sprinkle the soup with some extra chilli flakes. Serve with croutons. Enjoy!