Grains of Paradise, who can resist a name like that? This mythical African spice has a mild peppery taste with floral top notes that hint at ginger and cardamom. One way to get to know grains of paradise is to use it alone, as you would black pepper, on a familiar food like steak, eggs or a baked potato. Using grains of paradise in this way gives you an un-compromised taste of their unique flavor. Another option is this incredible West African Sweet Potato and Peanut Soup. Like all great recipes, the various components come together seamlessly to create something entirely new, and in this case the secret ingredient is grains of paradise. Beautifully balanced, the sweet potato and peanut butter form a delicious base to showcase the spices. The soup is creamy, mild and not at all heavy, making it a wonderful starter or side.
Grains of Paradise Peanut Soup
- 2 teaspoons whole Indian coriander
- 1 teaspoon grains of paradise
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 onion, chopped fine
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon brown sugar
- 3 garlic cloves
- 2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled, quartered and sliced thin
- 3 1/2 cups vegetable broth
- 2 cups water
- 3 tablespoons peanut butter
- Fried shallots or onions for garnish
- In a heavy skillet over medium-high heat, toast the Indian coriander and grains of paradise, stirring occasionally, until fragrant and lightly browned, about 3-4 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl an allow to cool. Grind in a mortar & pestle or electric mill.
- In a large Dutch oven, melt the butter over medium heat. Stir in the onion, salt and sugar and allow to cook about 5-7 minutes until translucent and aromatic. Add the garlic and 2 teaspoons of the spice mix and cook about 30 seconds more.
- Add the sweet potatoes, vegetable broth, water and peanut butter and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until the sweet potatoes are fork tender, about 25 minutes.
- Turn off the heat and allow the soup to cool slightly. Working in batches so the blender is never more than half full, transfer the soup to a countertop blender and puree until smooth.
- Return the soup to the pot and warm gently before serving. Garnish with a sprinkle of fried onions and a sprinkle of the remaining spice mix.
Adapted from Cook's Illustrated
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