April 16, 2010 · 11 comments

The Kindest Course

in My Recipes,Soup,Vegetarian

“Soup is cuisine’s kindest course. It breathes reassurance; it steams consolation; after a weary day it promotes sociability, as the five o’clock cup of tea or the cocktail hour.”

Louis P. De Gouy, The Soup Book (1949)

The vibrant bright orange colour of this silky soup has got to be enough to put a smile on your face hasn’t it? Even if it is springtime and yet clinging on to the cold weather of wintertime, this cannot fail to make you feel all comforted and happy.

I have a real thing about soups right now, they’re (mostly) healthy, quick and simple to prepare, suitable as a starter or light meal and relatively simple to transport to work.

Sweet potatoes have a creamy texture and a sweet-spicy flavour that makes them ideal for savoury dishes. There are two types, one with bright orange flesh, the other with pale cream flesh. Sweet potatoes are native to the tropical Americas. These tubers are rich in fibre, vitamins A, C and B6, and an excellent source of carbohydrates. The orange-fleshed variety are also rich in betacarotene. They are also a low glycemic index food – meaning that they release their sugar content relatively slowly and are thus prolonged energy providers i.e. you don’t get that ‘sugar rush’ feeling after eating them and then get hungry again in an hour or so and start reaching for the snacks.

A clever way to stimulate the taste buds and add a salty-umami style depth to a recipe is to add Parmesan cheese. Parmesan is rich in natural MSG which gives it that big umami hit, the MSG leeches out of the rind and into the soup to give it deep, rich, savoury taste.

Here, the Parmesan rind is simmered with chicken stock and naturally sweet sauteed onions and sweet potatoes to create a soup rich in flavour.

I’m on a bit of a health kick so just served the soup ‘plain’ but you could drizzle with a little double cream or a spoon of creme fraiche if you so wished.

Sweet Potato & Parmesan Soup

  • 500g sweet potato, peeled and diced
  • 100g unsalted butter
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 1 small celery stick, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1.5l chicken stock (use vegetable stock to make the dish suitable for vegetarians)
  • 200g freshly-grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 piece Parmesan rind
  • salt and black pepper, to taste
  • grated nutmeg, to taste
  1. Heat the butter in a large, heavy-bottomed pan, when it begins to foam add the vegetables. Cook gently for about 10 minutes, or until the vegetables have just softened and have begun to colour.
  2. Add the stock and the Parmesan rind (if you have some) then bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes (or until the potato is very tender). Remove the rind.
  3. Liquidize the soup, pass through a sieve (optional to sieve) and return the liquid to the pan.
  • Add the grated nutmeg, ladle into warmed soup bowl and serve with grated cheese scattered on top.