I haven't been doing a lot of cooking in the last month. Dealing with family matters and my moms' death have kept Alan and me running. Of course to say that I've been eating well would be a joke. Meals have been grabbed on the run when they do occur with any regularity, and mostly involve pizza. Lots of pizza. Sometimes good pizza, sometimes not so good. Frans last outing before she died was to her favorite pizza place, and even though Fran was many things, a gourmet she was not. Since that place was also my parent's favorite place, it's where we've been spending a whole lot of time with my dad. Mezzo-mezzo pizza and Manhattans (no Manhattans for me though) have been on the daily menu and I am more than ready to get back to Indian food and a regular healthy diet that actually includes fresh vegetables.
For me, the perfect passport to healthy eating has always been soup. No matter how bad and food-degenerate I've been, soup can put me back on the straight and narrow. It's my edible Rescue Mission in a bowl. Soup seemed like the perfect first step back to a normal diet after all the "I'm the Foursquare Mayor of this gin joint and I get a free dessert! "days. It's also been cold cold cold up here in Sonoma. I know that people who really live in a frigid clime must laugh at what we call cold, temps in the upper 20's and low 30's every morning. But when darkness falls and the mercury or whatever they're putting in digital thermometers nowadays drops, I want something filling and warm. I want Soup.
One of our favorite soups around here is Curried African Peanut Soup. There's a story to this soup. Once upon a time in a Beverly Hills of Long Ago there was a restaurant called The Rangoon Racquet Club. The Rangoon Racquet Club was one of those places that was always booked up months and months in advance. It was an extremely popular and fancy "adult" restaurant. It was not the sort of place a recent NYU film school grad who lived on Mickey D's, wore jeans and tennis shoes, and drove an ancient VW bug would go for a meal, but that's where Alan took me one evening for dinner.
He told me to dress up and showed up at my door in a pale grey raw silk suit that he'd bought for the occasion. I can't remember what I wore but I'm sure it was equally ludicrous. We most likely looked like a couple of prom kids out for a night on mom and dads' credit card. I don't know how he did it but he'd gotten a reservation at The RRC and off we went from the bowels of SilverLake to Beverly Hills. Good thing there was a valet because I could never have let myself out of that car as there was no inside door handle on the passenger side.
I can't remember too much about what we ate. The place was fancy and filled with potted palms. We had stepped into some sort of Private Club from the days of The Raj. The food was Colonial Style "Indian food." That is, Indian food filtered through the taste buds of some ancient Memsaab. No wonder I don't remember it. It was hardly Indian food as I know it now. The one thing about that meal that I will not forget however was the Curried Peanut Soup we were served.
The original recipe called for whipping cream, creamy peanut butter and the English version of curry powder. That yellow gold stuff that's sold as "curry" and really is more the sort of ingredient that's found in some classic Japanese curries rather than Indian. My version of this soup is a bit different. I use a lighter chicken broth and my universal method for avoiding heavy whipping cream in soups, which is the substitution of 1/3 cup of arborio rice for the dairy. I also use a plain ground chunky organic peanut butter free of salt and sugar, rather than the salted, sugared, jarred version. This time around courtesy of the nice people at Saffron Road I was able to try out Saffron Roads' chicken broth.
I don't often make broth from scratch anymore, there's usually not enough time and so I'm always looking for good quality pre-made. The Saffron Road broth is organic, low fat, low sodium, and halal. The flavors are fresh and delicious and it's always good to know that if something is coming out of a box or package, the people who are putting that whatever it is in the box or package care about what they're doing. In a word. I really liked this broth and it's now on my pantry staples list.
When it comes to soup making, there's not always time for long prep, and what I like about the Curried peanut soup is that it cooks up very quickly. Less than an hour from pot to bowl. It's always been a big favorite at our house. This is a soup that kids also seem to like too as the flavors are mild. So, without further ado.
Curried Peanut Soup
Here's What You Need:
4 cups of chicken broth. (I used Saffron Road Traditional Chicken Broth)
1 onion finely chopped
1/3 cup of uncooked Arborio rice
1 bunch of green onions finely chopped
1 Tbs peanut or coconut oil
3 shallots, chopped
3 carrots peeled and sliced
3 Tbs of curry powder
1 and 1/2 tsps of sugar
1/2 cup of crunchy peanut butter
A bit of yogurt
Here's What To Do:
Heat the peanut oil in a heavy pot.
When the oil is hot toss in the onion, shallots, and curry powder.
Stir everything around until the onion is golden and translucent.
Add in the chicken broth and bring everything to a boil.
When the broth is boiling, toss in the Arborio rice and the carrots.
Turn down the heat and simmer everything together for about 20 minutes. Stir it every once in a while to make sure nothing is sticking.
Take the pot off the fire and add in the peanut butter.
Using a food processor or immersion blender puree everything to nice smooth blend.
If you prefer your soup a bit thinner, you can add more broth now. It's purely a matter of taste.
Reheat the soup again gently.
Add in the sugar.
Ladle the soup into bowls and sprinkle the chopped green onions and cilantro over the top and add a dab of thick yogurt.
Serve it up!
This is a delicious warming soup and it's even better the next day as the flavors mellow. Its also the only recipe I make that actually uses traditional English curry powder, which of course is absent in Indian cuisine. I want to thank the good folks at Saffron Road Foods for allowing me to give their broth a test run in my kitchen. If you've got some peanut butter, carrots, and curry powder around the house, round up the broth and you can have this soup in a bowl pretty dang quickly. It's perfect for a cold Winter night.
Coming up next, I experiment with some food for our version of the Super Bowl, Oscar Night! Follow along on Twitter @kathygori