“Sweety sweet potatoes, how I wonder what you are?”
Through out my life I was eating pink-skinned sweet potato with creamy flesh inside. That is the way I could identify a sweet potato from other similar roots. Then one day someone pointed out brown-skinned or more precisely beige-skinned sweet potato, usually called “shakarkand” in Hindi. “Shakar” means sweet and “kand” means root. Pink-skinned sweet potatoes are not common in every part of India. So whenever we catch a glimpse of pink skinned sweet potatoes, our eyes brightened up instantly. Apart from enjoying them as roasted snacks in the evening, a quick long-distance call to a distant relative followed soon enough to get the secret recipe of making sweet potato jamuns or “mishti aloo pantua“.
In the vegetable vendor’s cart there was hiding another root, enough to confuse the green horns like me. They were brown-skinned tuber root more than foot long and with white flesh. I thought may be we did considerable progress in agriculture and hence are able to produce big sweet potatoes. But soon the hope disappeared when the vendor told me, they were tapioca or kappa in India and cassava elsewhere.
So poor sweet potatoes were in severe identity crisis. I took a secret oath to buy only pink skinned sweet potatoes. They are sweet flavoured, fleshy, starchy and according to ‘granny the elder’ they were really good for health. Henceforth, it became staple in our diet.
Decades fast forwarded, we had moved to US. Just before Thanksgiving, the market was flooded with sweet potatoes. They looks different to me. The sweet potatoes were brown-skinned with bright orange flesh inside. Less starchy and sweet, more fibrous. Once cooked, the bright orange color flesh looks very appetizing. The evening snack soon changed from tortilla chips to baked sweet potatoes sprinkled with nutmeg powder and dollop of sour cream over it. then comes the sweet potato fries with sriracha and so on.
Then something interesting happened in between. Enter another root called “yams”. And the argument continues, sweet potatoes vs yams. In India yams (goes by name jimikand or suran or ratalu) are huge, bulkier in size and has no resemblance to sweet potatoes in appearance and taste. Good old sweet potatoes were once again in identity crisis.
The sweet potatoes are wonder food packed with nutrients and disease-preventing, cancer-fighting and immune-boosting benefits. High in anti-oxidants and beta carotene, the orange fleshed sweet potatoes or yams ? are preferred over the white ones as it seems (as per few misguided reports) all the superfood qualities reside with the orange fleshed ones and the poor cream fleshed ones got nothing! That I call serious ‘injustice’!
- Sweet potato : 1 cup (diced)
- Butternut squash : 1 cup (diced)
- Apple : ½ cup diced (optional)
- Onion : 1 (diced about ½ cup)
- Leek : ½ cup diced only white part
- Garlic : 3-4 cloves
- Bay leaf : 1
- Thyme sprig : 1 (fresh )
- Pumpkin pie spice : 1 tsp
- Chilli powder : ½ tsp
- Milk : ½ cup
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Butter: 1tbsp
- Maple syrup : 1 tbsp (optional)
- Vegetable stock / water : 2 cup
- Warm the butter in the soup pot.
- Toss the onions, leek and garlic in the butter for few minutes. Let them sweat till they become translucent. Do not brown them.
- Add the sweet potatoes, butternut squash and apples. Toss them for a while.
- Add the salt, chilli powder, slip in the bay leaf and sprig of thyme.
- Cover it with two cups of vegetable stock or water and let it cook on low heat for 15 minutes till the veggies become tender.
- Remove the bay leaf, thyme and puree the soup in blender.
- Reheat the soup gently. Do not bring it to boil.
- Add the milk, pumpkin pie spice and adjust the seasonings.
- If you like it little sweeter then add the maple syrup.
- Serve warm with sour cream.
So don’t go by the mis-guided reports, eat this. Coupled with the butternut squash, and apple, this sweet potato soup is rich and creamy with complex flavours. The chilli powder beautifully offset the sweetness of the sweet potatoes though I would prefer to spiced it up with chipotle. The nutmeg and cinnamon powder adds the depth of flavor and I have replaced them with pumpkin pie spice here. In short this soup illustrates the ‘fall flavor’ in a bowl. On a gloomy fall evening, a warm bowl of sweet potato soup is all I needed, topped with few bacon bits. Though I understand perfectly the bright sunshine color of orange fleshed sweet potatoes are perfect mood-uplifters if you believe in color therapy. But taste matters not looks.
Happy soupy days