Friday, December 16, 2011

African-Inspired Peanut Soup

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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.

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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.

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Where am I from? Where am I going? 

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How did we get here?

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How does this exist? 

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I'm as small as a grain of sand way down there. 

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The water will wash it all away. 

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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.

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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
4 servings

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

Garnish: 
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.  

16 comments:

  1. I'm envious of all the places you have traveled, Nicole. That's what life is all about as far as I'm concerned.

    Your husband takes the most beautiful photographs.

    I have tried a peanut stew made from the hands of an African friend of mine. I have never dabbled with this kind of cuisine myself. I will have to give this a try. Thanks for this recipe!
    Magda

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  2. Magda, Thank you, I know, I've had some amazing experiences and I am very grateful for all of them.
    My husband has quite the eye for photography.
    I've been doing all the food photos for the blog since September but I have yet to reach his level....
    I think you'll like this recipe :)

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  3. I was captivated by this post. Felt like I was floating quietly over the grains of sand. Adding peanut butter to chicken soup sounds incredible. I'm wondering if R would give this a try. I know I would. PEANUT BUTTER!

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  4. Hi Nicole! Can't wait to sit with the photos and really take a closer look. Amazing! What do you think about using tofu for the chicken? This looks great! xoxoxo Lisa H.

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  5. Tracy, I hope R. would at least try it! Maybe he'd be surprised?

    Lisa, I haven't cooked with tofu in about 10 years to be honest, so I don't have a lot of experience... but I'm pretty sure it would work, maybe you wouldn't have to simmer it though for 15 mins like the chicken.

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  6. Amazing Photos. Looks like an very adventurous trip.

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  7. What a beautiful start to my morning! I love looking at the series of stunning photos and reading the captions of what had been going through your mind. And this soup looks divine! Can't wait to try it.

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  8. Those pictures are stunning! I think I'm adding Namibia to my list of trips to do...

    And the peanut soup sounds delicious!

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  9. There is a spice shop at the farmers market and I bought a few ounces of African curry blend. We've used it in a really amazing curry but Id love a new way to use it. And I love your pics--that looks like the trip of a lifetime.

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  10. What an interesting soup, with a nice contrast of flavors. Loved the pictures too, really inspiring! Would not really wish to be stuck in a desert!

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  11. Those are fabulous photos of your flight and your peanut soup...I really like anything with peanuts for the most part. I will have to let your recipe tide me over until a trip is possible.

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  12. My thoughts like to wander too. This soup looks superb. Curry + peanut, and the bright colored vegetables on top -- very nice.

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  13. I made and posted about a Sudanes peanut shorba quite a while back. The photos are among the worst I have taken and the post is definitely lacking that amazing scenery, but the idea of a spicy peanut soup with an acidic note really appealed to me. It really is worth making. I will try this recipe this time, I have been meaning to perfect it and never got back to it.

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  14. I would LOVE to visit Africa someday but what with all the schooling I have left, it won't be for a while. Peanut butter soup? That I can get done in the next week! Sounds delicious.

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  15. I have enjoyed a similar African Peanut Soup, and it is delicious. Even more enjoyable is this flight over Namibia, such evocative landscape,raw beauty!

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