Packed full of leeks, onions, and carrots, this sweet potato soup is enhanced by a whole variety of flavors from roasted garlic to cilantro to lime juice, curry powder, and jalapeno. I discovered Susan Bradley’s Sweetpotato, Ginger, & Coconut Bisque on her inventive Luna Cafe blog and made a much lighter adaptation for our family. One part of her recipe she insists on is the four (count them) garnishes she recommends: toasted flaked coconut, chopped cilantro, cilantro lime oil, and sour cream.
I kept three garnishes, skipping the sour cream— along with the butter, chicken stock, and cream– and made a vegan soup with clean vegetable and spice flavors. I used homemade vegetable stock, which combined with the other vegetable ingredients makes a very nutrient rich soup.
The toasted flaked coconut is highly addictive and I’m surprised the package made it through my three test versions of this soup without being completely nibbled away. The flakes give the soup a little chewy/crunchy texture and a nice coconut flavor without adding a lot of fat. I put coconut milk on the table as a stir-in option. A spoonful melts easily while the soup is hot, and those who aren’t looking for the extra calories can skip it.
The cilantro lime garnish took but a minute or two in the food processor and made a very flavorful green sauce. I experimented with a lower fat version– and may try that again– but the amount used on the soups was small enough that the amount of olive oil didn’t concern me. For now the only change I made was to omit the salt, which seemed optional in a simple garnish atop a salted soup.
This takes an hour of active prep time before starting the garnishes, more than I’d normally do for a weekday dinner. But with so many layers of flavor, it would be perfect for a weekend dinner or special occasion. I’ve served it with just bread (for the bread-eaters in the family) or with bread and the simplest salad I could make.
Susan calls for roasting peeled, cubed sweet potatoes and a head of garlic in the oven. Recipes for roasting garlic often call for drizzling the garlic with olive oil: this one doesn’t. I tried it and it worked well the first time– here’s how it looked going in to the oven:
The second (and third) times I made this soup I got inattentive and burned the sweet potatoes, which seemed to burn a little more easily than the garlic. So I cooked up some sweet potatoes in vegetable stock to replace them. That takes only 2o minutes instead of 45 for roasting.
Skip roasting the garlic, too, and add three or four cloves in the pot later with the other vegetables, and you’ll have shaved 25 minutes of passive roasting time from the recipe. But it won’t taste quite the same since roasting the garlic makes it sweeter and more mellow. I’ll leave it up to you.
Blend the cooked sweet potatoes, roasted garlic, and stock. If you have a smaller blender, remove the sweet potatoes from the pot with a slotted spoon and blend them with just a small portion of the stock.
Here’s the cilantro lime garnish: I had enough left over that I’m going to try the rest on a salad:
- For the soup:
- 1 head garlic
- 2 # sweet potatoes
- spray olive or canola cooking oil
- 5-6 cups vegetable stock
- 2 cups yellow onion, chopped (2 small or 1 medium yellow onion, about 1ginger oz.)
- 2 cups chopped leek (1 medium to large leek, about 7 oz.)
- 1 cup chopped carrot (2-3 small carrots, 4 oz.)
- 3 Tbs. ginger root, peeled, minced
- 2 jalapeno chiles, seeds removed, minced
- 3 Tbs. olive oil
- 3-4 Tbs lime juice, more to taste (juice of 1 large or 2 small limes)
- 1 tsp. dried thyme
- 1 Tbs. curry powder
- salt to taste
- pepper to taste
- For the cilantro lime garnish:
- about ⅓ cup roughly chopped cilantro
- the white section from a small bunch of scallions (green onions), about ⅓ cup
- ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- For the other garnishes:
- 3 Tbs. lime juice (juice of about one lime)
- (optional ¼ can coconut milk)
- cilantro, chopped
- about ½ cup unsweetened coconut flakes
- Cooking garlic and sweet potatoes, option 1.
- Peel sweet potatoes and cut into 2″ chunks. Add to pot with several cups of the vegetable stock. Simmer for 20 minutes until soft. Roast garlic following steps in option 2, or instead pan-fry 3 or 4 cloves of garlic later with the other vegetables.
- Cooking garlic and sweet potatoes, option 2.
- Cut top off head of garlic removing top of bulb and the tip of most of the cloves of garlic. Peel the sweet potatoes and cut into large chunks.
- Place cubed sweet potatoes and head of garlic on a baking sheet on greased parchment paper and roast in oven at 375 for 35-45 minutes, checking for doneness starting at 35 minutes. Remove from oven, let garlic cool, and squeeze the bulb to extract the softened garlic cloves.
- After following either method:
- Add roasted garlic (if you roasted it), cooked sweet potatoes, and some of the stock to your blender. If the stock is hot, be cautious. Your type of blender may require that you let it cool off some first. Blend until smooth.
- Peel and chop yellow onions.
- Trim, cut, wash and chop leek (see my post on how to clean leeks if you haven’t done it before).
- Peel and chop carrots.
- Peel and mince ginger root.
- Cut jalapeno peppers in half, remove seeds. Mince.
- Add olive oil to large stockpot, heat.
- Fry ginger root for a couple of minutes in the olive oil.
- Add onions, carrots, and leeks. Fry until they have become soft but not brown.
- Add curry, thyme, and jalapeno to pot and stirfry for another couple of minutes.
- Add pureed sweet potato/garlic mixture and any remaining stock to the pot.
- Simmer for 15-20 minutes, adding lime juice, salt, and pepper to taste. Starting with homemade vegetable stock, which has some sodium naturally, I only needed to add 1 tsp. of salt. If you use store-bought stock, which can be salty, you may not need to add any salt at all.
- Prepare cilantro lime garnish.
- Directions using a Vitamix or other high powered blender: add all ingredients to blender, blend, beginning with low speed and gradually increasing speed to high, running at high until completely smooth.
- Directions using a food processor: Add scallions and cilantro to food processor, chop. While machine is running, drizzle olive oil in through the top. Stop the machine to scrape down occasionally as needed. Blend until smooth. Add lime juice, blend again briefly.
- Prepare other garnishes:
- Toast flaked coconut for a 2-3 minutes in a pan on the range on medium heat, stirring constantly until brown.
- Chop cilantro.
- Serve coconut milk, cilantro, toasted coconut, and cilantro lime garnish on the table, allowing diners to garnish their soup as they wish. The coconut milk should be added to the soup first so it can be stirred in while the soup is still hot.
- Note: cook time will vary depending on which preparation method you choose.