Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Day 18 - African Peanut Soup

I love peanut butter, and when I came across this recipe I didn't hesitate to add it my To-Do list. Now, I know the skeptics out there may be thinking peanut butter and tomatoes in a soup? The peanut butter is not overwhelming at all, I think it adds a nice smooth velvety texture in between the crunchy vegetables, rice and added peanuts.

Making this soup, I was reminded of my travels to Africa for work. I have been lucky enough to go to Kenya, Uganda, South Africa and Mauritius. I was never disappointed with the food in an any of the countries, and I especially liked how the food in Mauritius and Uganda had some Indian influence. I was however, very trepidations about the food safety. Uganda had several power outages a day, which makes for very unstable freezer and refrigeration temperatures.

That doesn't mean I still didn't get sick. I got food poisoning my second day in Cape Town,South Africa, and in Kenya I had an "unsettled digestive system" to put it politely (this is a food blog after all) for 4 days.

The day before I left Kenya I took a tour of Kibera, the largest slum in East Africa, with a local. I was high-fiving little kids and shaking hands with people all day, and then we sat down for lunch, and there was no place to wash your hands. We were served some greens and Ugali (made from cornmeal)which is eaten by pinching off a piece with your right hand, and shaping it into a scoop, which is then used to scoop up sauces or stew. Here I was faced with a cultural dilemma. Be rude and use a fork, or risk getting food borne illness. Because if I couldn't find a place to wash my hands, chances are they couldn't either. I came to the conclusion that offending one person was well worth not offending many passenger on my plane ride home.

I hope that you will be a culinary maverick (that's right, I said maverick) like myself, and just enjoy trying new soups, even if you think it may be an odd combination. You never know until you try, right?

African Peanut Soup
Source: All Recipes

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped
2 large red bell peppers, chopped
2 Celery stalks chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes, with liquid
8 cups vegetable broth or stock
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon chili powder (optional)
2/3 cup extra crunchy peanut butter
1/2 cup uncooked brown rice
whole Peanuts for garnish

*Chef Note: I halved the recipe, maintained the spice level and added a bit of cayenne pepper, and substituted canned tomatoes for one and half chopped whole fresh tomatoes.


Heat oil in a large stock pot over medium high heat. Cook onions and bell peppers until lightly browned and tender, stirring in garlic when almost done to prevent burning. Stir in tomatoes, vegetable stock, pepper, and chili powder. Reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes.
Stir in rice, cover, and simmer another fifteen minutes or until rice is tender (it took over 30 minutes for the rice to become tender, keep an eye on it after 15 min). Stir in peanut butter until well blended, and serve. Garnish with peanuts and some peppers.

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