Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Ground Nut Soup: Vegan Peanut Butter Soup

Ground nut soup is to grandmothers across Africa what beef stew is across the US.  Every family has its favorite.  Every country from Ghana to Sudan has local variations.  When the ground nut came across the Atlantic, the dish became a Southern classic, peanut soup.  There are no real rules except for the presence of the ground nuts which, in the US, are easily obtained in the form of peanut butter.

Yesterday my vegetarian and vegan friends were here for lunch so I threw together some warm and tasty soup from what was in the cupboards.  I had store-brand all-natural peanut butter on hand, making the flavor a bit milder than soup made with the national brands of peanut butter.   In fact, it didn't taste like peanut butter but rather like nuts.  As with most soups, the proportions are up to you based on taste. 

  • 2-3 Tbl. olive oil
  • A large sweet onion, coarsely chopped
  • 2-3 stalks or inner stalks & heart of celery, coarsely chopped
  • 2-3 carrots, washed & trimmed but not peeled, coarsely chopped
  • 2"-3" knob of ginger root, peeled, trimmed, & finely chopped
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 4-6 cups water, divided
  • 1/2 cup catsup
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 3/4 cup crunchy peanut butter
  • 1 can beans (e.g. kidney beans), drained and rinsed
  • Several springs cilantro, finely chopped
  • 1-2 teaspoons cumin
  • Sea salt to taste
 Note: if you use sweetened peanut butter or tomato sauce instead of catsup, you may want to skip the molasses.

  1. Heat the olive oil in a heavy soup pot.
  2. Over medium heat, sweat the onion, carrots, celery, ginger root, and garlic until the onion is translucent.
  3. Add half the water and simmer for 5-10 minutes.
  4. With an immersion blender or in the food processor or blender, lightly whir the vegetables and water until thick with some chunks of vegetables remaining.  If you don't have the equipment for this step, chop everything more finely at the outset.
  5. Add the remaining water, catsup, molasses, and peanut butter.
  6. Simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, to meld flavors.
  7. Add cilantro, cumin and salt, adjusting the seasonings to taste.
  8. Simmer another 5-10 minutes.
  9. Serve.

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    Imprecise & Inexpensive

    Two themes predominate in my approach to cooking. 1. Daily cooking of flavorful food need not be a precise art. 2. You can be an adventurous cook on a budget. Cooking and eating should be fun for both cookers and eaters.