Above the African desert in a four seater plane, the world feels so different. Expansive, vast, a gentle place, where winds work hard to carve and shape the earth at their whim.
After 30 minutes of flight, the vista changed so dramatically. It was unnerving but also calming to witness. What was going through my mind? I remember.
How did we get here?
How does this exist?
I'm as small as a grain of sand way down there.
The water will wash it all away.
My thoughts like to wander as much as my body. Lately, I've been soaring over Namibia again, away from the quotidian workings of my mind: What's for lunch, what's for dinner, what fun toddler activities will I orchestrate today?
But no, really, what is for dinner? I can't daydream all day. Back down to earth I come. I remember the flavors of Namibia and recall a peanut soup.
If you can make it to Africa in this lifetime, I whole-heartedly recommend a fly-in safari in Namibia. In the event that such a trip is not possible in the next few decades, make this soup. It will tide you over, without all the existential searching.
African Inspired Peanut Soup
The beauty of this soup is threefold. First, you have a surprising twist on a chicken soup (the peanut). Then you have extremely bright vegetables. By steaming them briefly you will not overcook them. Lastly, the garnishes add bursts of tangy flavor. And the chicken is so incredibly tender you can't help but love this dish. Interestingly, neither the jalapeño nor the serrano peppers made this soup spicy, which was my intention. I removed the seeds, because seeds would not be nice in a soup, and of course therein lies the spice.
1 1/2 pounds chicken breast
1/2 cup of flour (to make this gluten free, use 1/4 cup corn starch)
2 Tablespoons curry powder
1 teaspoon salt
freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 serrano or 2 jalapeño peppers, seeded and minced
5 cups chicken broth
1/4 cup natural peanut butter (fine to use either chunky or smooth)
1 stalk of broccoli
1 red pepper
1 red pepper
4 green onions, chopped
Handful of cilantro, chopped
1 lime cut into wedges
Cut the chicken breast into bite size chunks, about 2 inches each. Mix the flour (or cornstarch) with the curry powder, salt and pepper in a shallow bowl. Working in 2 or 3 batches, dredge the chicken pieces in the flour/curry mixture. Heat the olive oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Again working in batches, sauté the chicken (do not crowd it in the pot) for 2 minutes each side. Remove and continue this until all the chicken has been sautéed. Be careful not overcook it- really, just 2 minutes per side. Remove all the chicken from the pot and set aside for later.
In the same pot, over medium to low heat, cook the garlic and serrano pepper for about 1 minute. Add the peanut butter and stir to melt, then add the broth. Cover the pot and cook for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, as broth simmers, cut the broccoli into florets and the red pepper into chunks or strips. Steam the vegetables until just tender, making sure they retain their vibrant color.
Add the chicken pieces to the broth, again over a low simmer and cook for an additional 15 minutes. (Set your timer, this will ensure extremely tender chicken.)
The soup is ready to be served. Just ladle the chicken and peanut broth into shallow bowl, top with broccoli and red pepper, and garnish with scallion, cilantro and lime wedges.