Thursday, 29 November 2012


The peel comes away in coarse slivers, each strip revealing more of its deep orange flesh. Its earthy coat removed, I pick up a sharp vegetable knife and attempt to attack it. Tough, this knife is obviously not big enough! I use all my force and successfully halve it. Chop, chop, chop into rough-sized cubes. Hoisting the heavy wooden chopping board into my hands and pushing these chunks into the pot with the sizzling onion and spices, then pouring vegetable stock over. Some liquid splashes from the measuring jug onto the work surface. I tut, tut as I wipe it and turn the electric hob down to a simmer. For 20 minutes, I watch mesmerised by the small bubbles that form on the surface. My patience runs out, I cannot wait any longer. I lift off the lid and pierce an orange cube, the knife easily slices through – it's done!
Stage two: improvisation. I grab a potato masher from the drawer and proceed to vigorously squash any remaining lumps until it resembles more of a puree. Phew! With the back of my left hand, I brush a loose strand of hair off my face and assemble my insufficient-for-the-whole-job stick blender. My right index finger selects the only speed, the blades rotate and churn the liquid. A guttural whirring. I reach for the already opened can of coconut milk with my other hand and gently add half its contents. The white swirls swiftly disappear as they're blended with the liquid. Its colour lightening and texture changing; intense orange to rich amber, grainy to smooth to velvet. The blades choke to a halt as my index finger is released from its labour. Perfection!
As the liquid cools, I wash up and inhale the aroma. Periodically sniffing the air as I clean each used utensil. I divide the tepid liquid between two plastic containers and on two identical labels write in permanent marker: Homemade Sweet Potato Soup, peeling these off the backing paper and slapping them round the containers. I seal the plastic lids on and bundle them both into the freezer. My mouth watering as I think how delicious this soup will be when it's reheated and finished properly. A extra pinch of chilli spice, a dash of lime juice and a tablespoon of crunchy peanut butter or creamed sesame. A real winter warmer!
I'm still picturing a bowl of steaming soup as I untie my apron. Folding the garment up, my thoughts turn to my other comfort foods. Those ideal for when I'm craving carbs or suffering from a nasty cold: plain spaghetti or boiled rice with a knob of spread and grated cheese, or a jacket potato with baked beans. At this time of year, simple food is just so soothing.