“Peanuts in a soup?”
“Did she say peanuts in a soup?”
Hold on a second.
Before you run for the hills screaming, “It’s wrong!” … “Peanuts in a soup is just plain wrong!”, let me say one thing – think of Spicy Peanut and Vegetable Noodles … Is that better? Now hold that thought … keep it there … stay with me for a few minutes … have faith.
Time for a quick story before we get into the recipe? Great. Here goes … it’ll be worth the wait.
There’s always a great deal of food feedback, rating and ranking that goes on around our dinner table – often involving a ‘marks out of 10’ approach and followed by the inevitable ‘and what would you change to improve it’ question. It’s all part of the ongoing process to decide whether a new dish is a) bloggable, b) worthy of rework/tweaks, c) one to ditch.
Encouraging feedback for these dishes means that I also have to expect unsolicited feedback on pretty much every food item that finds its way into lunch boxes, appears as part of dinner or simply makes it through the front door.
#1 and #2 teenage sons both have gargantuan appetites and, as well as a tightly packed lunch box, they also take a food flask to school with them every day. Most of the time I have a stash of soups, stews and chillis in the freezer that will do the job perfectly, but I had been a little too eager with my ‘post-Christmas-eating-from-the-freezer-and-pantry’ and last week, the freezer was unable to provide. I did a couple of soups for flasks during the week (a carrot and coriander and another one – clearly not that memorable). There was feedback of course and it was that both soups were OK but rather bland. That was telling me … I suspect that ‘subtle’ translates into ‘bland’ in the hands of teenage boys, but nevertheless, I set myself a challenge to find a more gutsy soup alternative, but still using ingredients that probably didn’t require a trip to the shops.
And I think I’ve found it in Spicy Peanut and Vegetable Soup. This is quite the yummiest soup I’ve made in ages and here’s why … There are 2 killer ingredients that turn a regular vegetable soup into something … dare I say it? – exotic. The key mystery ingredient is … DRUM ROLL, DRUM ROLL … crunchy peanut butter – and quite a lot of it too. Yet, surprisingly none of my family of food critics were able to identify it during sampling. The other hard hitter is the Piquanté Peppers from a jar (I used the Mild variety from Peppadew) – warmth without searing heat. Perfect.
But here is the BUT – because there is a BUT … Despite the spectacular flavour and the easy method for this soup, it really isn’t the most handsome of dishes … ‘not a looker’ to quote #1 teenage son. It scored a 9/10 in the round the table rating and the only suggestion to improve it was to make it look better!
The problem is that the combination of the peanut butter and the crushed tomatoes produces a pinky/orangey colour and, although I hadn’t realised it before, soup should not be pinky/orangey. Sad but true. It didn’t look horrendous, but still less than gorgeous.
The problem is that CHANGING THE LOOK = CHANGING THE INGREDIENTS = CHANGING THE TASTE and we really don’t want that.
So, determined that this soup was eminently bloggable, I found the perfect solution – paprika croutons – delicious, crunchy and covers up a big chunk of the surface area until you’ve had that ‘love at first slurp’ spoonful.
And with or without the croutons, take it from me, here’s why you’ll be giving it a go –
- Onions, carrots, potatoes, tinned tomatoes, crunchy peanut butter and piquanté peppers – an ingredients list that you can probably pull together without a trip to the shops.
- The flavour will take you somewhere new – not just a different country … I had moved continents.
- The peanut butter gives it depth and the peppers give it warmth. I fear that a regular vegetable soup will be forever a disappointment now.
- Prepared it ahead; warmed it up to serve.
- Half the soup went into food flasks for the next day – the balance into the freezer.
- And if you keep a bag of little cubes of stale bread in the freezer, you’ll even be able to knock up the croutons without a drama.
It’s still unlikely to be a soup whose looks send it viral, but trust me, this is worthy of dimming the lights and diving in.
- 2 medium onions, finely chopped
- 110g (4oz) crunchy peanut butter
- 400g (14oz approx) tin chopped tomatoes
- 900ml (1½ pints) stock, vegetable or chicken
- 175g (6oz) potatoes
- 75g (3oz) piquanté peppers, drained weight
- 175g (6oz) carrots, chopped
- salt and pepper
- a handful of coriander, chopped
- Paprika Croutons
- a handful of cubes of bread, stale and/or frozen is fine
- a sprinkling of paprika
- a drizzle of olive oil
- salt and pepper
- Gently cook the onions with the peanut butter and 2 tablespoons of water for 5 minutes in a covered saucepan. Keep an eye on it so that it doesn't stick.
- Add the tinned tomatoes, stock, potatoes, piquanté peppers and carrots. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer gently until the vegetables are tender.
- Remove some of the vegetables with a slotted spoon and use a stick blender to puree the soup that remains. Now return the vegetables to the pan and stir well.
- Taste and adjust the seasoning accordingly.
- Stir through the chopped coriander, saving a little for a garnish.
- To make the Paprika Croutons
- Preheat the oven to 180ºC, 350ºF (gas mark 4).
- Spread the bread cubes on a baking tray. If they are straight from the freezer, there is no need to defrost them.
- Sprinkle on some paprika, drizzle with a little olive oil and season lightly.
- Now bake in the oven for about 15 mins or until golden and crunchy. These croutons will keep nicely in an airtight container until you are ready to use them.
- Use to garnish the soup just before serving.