Wednesday, November 11, 2015

George Washington Carver sweet potato soup with peanut butter and ginger

In the morning after I fix my coffee, locate my reading glasses, and snatch a piece of scrap paper out of the desk drawer, I write up a to-do list for all of us. Each child has chores, plus academics. List-making is the only way I can stay on the ball and keep everyone on task. Otherwise, a child might wander off and, without her in my line of vision, I may forget that, oh yes, I wanted her to empty the compost, write an essay, and wash the eggs. So I put all my ideas and goals on paper, first thing in the morning.

Lunch was late today because everyone was on a roll. My older son was practicing his choir music in his room. My older daughter was rewriting an essay we had just edited together. My younger daughter was doing some self-initiated letter writing. My younger son was in the downstairs room listening to a recording of Story of the World while jumping around and waving a wooden stake. While I waited for them to wrap it up, I pulled leftovers from the fridge and began reheating them: broccoli soup, chili, chicken and rice, and, for me, George Washington Carver soup.

I first had this soup at my mother's house. We had stopped by one evening to say hi to their out-of-town guests (and maybe to pick up some of our children? I can't remember now). When we arrived, they were just sitting down to their dinner of Carver soup, onion-corn bake, sauteed greens, and cake (I think). We pulled up chairs, intending to visit for a bit before heading back home. Mom, of course, invited us to eat, too, but we said no. However, she was insistent that I taste the soup. Fine, I said, and watched as she ladled a small scoop into a bowl, plopped a dollop of sour cream in the center, and sprinkled chopped peanuts on top.

One bite and my eyes widened. Wow, I said.

“I know.” she whispered. “I think it may be the best soup I ever made.”

I finally got around to making the soup for myself just last week. The soup appears plain and dull, but it's anything but. There's so much going on: the sweet potatoes give it a creamy sweetness, the peanut butter adds richness, the fresh ginger and cayenne give it a bite, and the spices (cumin! coriander! cloves! cinnamon!) supply depth and complexity. It's like a kaleidoscope for the taste buds. Enjoy!

George Washington Carver Sweet Potato Soup with Peanut Butter and Ginger 
Adapted from a recipe that my mother's friend, Lois, found in a some flyer, magazine, or newspaper. 

I used about ¼ cup fresh ginger, and the ginger flavor did not overwhelm. Also, I substituted ground chipotle pepper in place of the cayenne, and, while I thought the spice was pleasant, one of the children thought it was too spicy: be discerning.

This soup freezes well. To save freezer space, my mother omits much of the liquid when making the soup, and then adds the liquid when she is reheating the soup.

½ cup peanut oil, divided
2 sweet potatoes (about 2 pounds), peeled and roughly chopped
2 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
1 onion, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons (or more) fresh ginger, minced
2 teaspoons each ground cumin and ground coriander
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon each ground cloves and chipotle powder (or cayenne)
½ cup roasted tomato sauce
8 cups chicken broth (or water)
½ cup creamy peanut butter
condiments, optional but highly recommended: fresh cilantro, dry-roasted peanuts, and sour cream.

Toss the sweet potatoes, carrots, and onion with all but 2 tablespoons of the peanut oil. Spread the veggies on a sided baking sheet, sprinkle with plenty of salt, and roast at 375 degrees for 30 minutes, or until fork-tender. 

Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of peanut oil in a large soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the garlic, ginger, and remaining spices and saute for half a minute. Stir in the tomato sauce, peanut butter, stock, and roasted veggies. Stir well and simmer for 15 minutes. Using an immersion stick blender (or a stand one), puree the soup. Taste to correct seasonings: you'll probably need a fair bit of salt.

To serve, pour the soup into serving bowls and top with sour cream, fresh cilantro, and chopped dry-roasted peanuts.

This same time, years previous: the quotidian (11.10.14), butternut squash galette with caramelized onions and goat cheese, the quotidian (11.11.13), the quotidian (11.11.12), mashed sweet potatoes, a boy book, chicken and white bean chili, and peanut butter cream pie.    


  1. Do you think that pumpkin would work instead of the sweet potatoes. I have some that needs to be used.

    1. There's no harm in trying! I suspect it might be a little waterier, but that might be just fine. Perhaps you could add a little potato---either white or sweet---to provide that starchy-creamy factor...

  2. "It's like a kaleidoscope for the taste buds." How can I resist that description? Must try. Of course, I'm traveling too much to cook right now, but later!

  3. Ha! One of the out-of-town guests was just ready to report on this soup herself! "Arguably Best Soup I Ever Ate"! I'll just send my readers here for the recipe. Thanks!

  4. Would regular tomato sauce work?

    1. Tomato sauce would be fine! (The original recipe called for 2 T. of tomato paste.)

    2. Thank you! I am starting to roast the sweet potatoes right now! :)

  5. This was so good. So, so good. Might also be my best soup ever. Total keeper. Thank you!

  6. I made this before Christmas and it was lovely. Then made it for my mum at Christmas and she really liked it. Then she passed the recipe on to my aunt who made it and now plans to serve it at her cafe in Scotland. A well travelled recipe!

    1. I'm still making this on the regular and have a new one in my repertoire which reminded me of this soup (roasted root vegetables, some kind of nut), thought I would pass it on: