It’s been a dramatic weekend in Toronto.

Amidst reports of police brutality and wanton violence, it’s hard to know who or what to believe. My household, like many in the area, hunkered down with the TV, radio, and internet. The dreary, cloudy day didn’t help the collective mood of the city -it made the sounds and images that much more depressing.

So it was that I spontaneously decided to cook. My kitchen really is my refuge.

Despite the humidity, soup felt right. It’s comfort food, after all. I decided on a Jamaican-style sweet potato soup, owing to a half-bag of said veg in my cupboard, and the crying need for something hot, spicy and nourishing. As the news reports detailed more arrests (as well as -oh yeah! -actual progress at the G8 an G20 meetings), I held my soup bowl and felt, in my literal and figurative guts, that things would be okay. And they were, at least in my little world.

You will need:

  • olive oil
  • roughly 6-8 sweet potatoes (you can also use yams), chopped
  • roughly 2-3 tbsp chopped fresh ginger (about a third the size of your hand)
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 4-6 cups chicken stock (depending on how runny you like your soup)
  • 2 medium-sized orange slices
  • 1 cup cream
  • Spices (in order of use): ground turmeric, ground coriander, ground cumin, organic brown sugar, fresh ground pepper, fresh nutmeg, cinnamon
  • salt to taste (I like sea salt)

Pour oil into a deep pot -make sure it’s enough to cover the bottom and warm on a medium heat.

Place chopped garlic and ginger into pot; stir and let saute for about 3 minutes, until fragrant. Sprinkle 1/2 tsp of turmeric on top and stir.

Add chopped sweet potatoes (or yams). Stir so that the ginger and garlic covers the pieces. Saute for about a minute, and then add roughly a 1/2 cup of stock. Stir. Replace lid.

Note: you’ll be repeating this add-stock-and-stir thing a lot, so be sure to keep a watch. You basically want to cook the sweet potatoes in stock until they’re mushy.

During this time, be sure to add your spices: turmeric (about 1 tbsp), ground coriander (1/2 tbsp) and ground cumin (1 tsp). Add about 1/2 tbsp of brown sugar (less if you’re using yams). Squeeze in the juice from the two orange slices with your hands. Stir it all and keep cooking.

Use the bottom of the spoon you’re using to stir things to break the pieces apart. Keep adding stock and stirring. I like this slow method -it produces a rich flavour and you get to control how thick or thin the soup is.

When the potatoes are soft (and you have a decidedly soup-y looking concoction), add a bit more stock and stir. Using either a hand-blender or a traditional blender, puree the lot right down. This make take a few tries, as ginger tends to be stalky sometimes, but keep going. If you don’t get every little bit, don’t worry; you can always put the whole thing through a hand blender one more time later on, unless you like bits of spicy ginger in your soup.

In any case, post-puree, you should have a beautiful orange-yellow pap. Put back onto low heat and stir. Add cream, in little bits, constantly stirring and taking care you don’t get any flare-ups from the thick soup (they hurt!).

Add the rest of the spices: a pinch of cinnamon, and a few good grates of the fresh nutmeg. Grind a good amount of fresh pepper straight into the pot as well as roughly 2 tbsp of salt and stir well. Cook on low heat (lid on) for about 15 minutes, stirring a few times.

If you still find the soup too thick, add more stock to taste, heat, and stir. Keep in mind -it’s supposed to have that pungent, spicy hot-sweetness to it. The odd chunk of ginger is actually quite delightful. And it’s even better the next day.

Ladle into bowls and enjoy.
Voila, comfort.