Years ago, my mother found a sweet potato and pear soup recipe in Ontario’s Food and Wine magazine—a free publication everybody receives when visiting the province’s liquor stores—and cooked it on a whim. My gosh, did that soup ever become famous in our family! It turned into a Christmas Eve staple, to be served every year and only on the 24th of December. One whiff of the soup, and I am immediately thrust back into the kitchen of my childhood home: It is a snowy Canadian winter in the late ’90s. Our house is adorned in lights, wreaths and candles. The soundtrack from A Charlie Brown Christmas is playing, and I am anticipating the arrival of aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents. As mom adds the lime juice to the soup, I yell, ‘‘Lime juice?! No! You’ll ruin it!’’ But she hushes me and says, ‘‘It’s the secret ingredient.’’
Older now, and living abroad, I make this soup whenever I feel homesick. November cues the harvest of sweet potatoes and pears, so I made a batch recently and served it to my partner. To my delight, it tasted just as marvelous to him as it always has to me. The ingredients are rather common, but the combination of sweet (the potatoes, pears and maple syrup), sour (lime juice) and fatty (heavy cream or coconut milk) is pleasantly ‘‘new’’ to the mouth. So, if you’re bored of traditionally savory soups, give this one a try.
Over the years I have adapted the recipe to boost the flavor, color and texture. Less broth makes a thicker soup that, when chilled as leftovers, thickens to a marvelous puree. Dried turmeric enhances the natural orange color. And more of the secret ingredients make the ‘magic’ of the soup more pronounced. Also, I list options to replace the chicken broth and 35% cream with vegetable broth and coconut milk for a vegetarian or vegan option.
DAIRY-FREE SWEET POTATO AND PEAR SOUP RECIPE
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 small purple onion
- 1 carrot
- 2 stalks of celery
- 3-4 sweet potatoes
- 3 pears
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon dried turmeric
- 1 liter (33 oz.) of stock (chicken or vegetable)
- ⅓ cup of 35% cream or full fat coconut milk
- 1 tablespoon of maple syrup
- 1 tablespoon of lime juice
- Salt and pepper
1. Peel and dice the onions, carrot, and celery.
2. Heat a deep cooking pot to medium-high temperature. Add the olive oil, and then the vegetables. Reduce the heat to medium and saute for a few minutes, until the vegetables start to sweat and the onions are translucent.
3. Meanwhile, peel and cut the sweet potatoes and pears into chunks. Add them to the cooking pot, along with the dried thyme and turmeric, and saute a few more minutes.
4. Pour in the broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 20-30 minutes, until all ingredients are very soft.
5. Puree the soup using a hand-blender. (If you use a standard blender, work in 2-3 batches, blending equal parts vegetables and liquid. Cover the lid of the blender with a towel to prevent spillage. Return the pureed soup to the cooking pot.)
6. Maintaining a simmer, add the 35% cream, maple syrup, and lime juice. Whisk well and judge the consistency. Would you like it more wet? Add more broth or water. Season with salt and pepper and taste the soup. Adjust the sweet/sour/salty ratio to your liking with more of the final ingredients, or leave it be.
A few more hearty, seasonal recipes to try this winter:
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