Spiced-Up Sweet Potato Soup - Improv Challenge

I was slightly out of town for a few weeks.  By "slightly" I mean a well-timed vacation in Israel.  We left NJ a few days before Sandy blew through town, and returned just hours before a Nor'Easter lightly coated our lawn with 18 inches of fluffy snow.  

We were amazingly lucky. Lights, heat and a dry basement greeted us upon our return.  Only a few tree branches were downed.  A neighbor's tree sheared off at root level, bounced off his fence and landed mere inches from our shed.  Even our basement window, sporting several cracks from a long-ago wayward baseball, sealed with a kiss and mailing tape, held fast. 

We had lost power for only 4 days.  The only real casualties were the contents of the fridge.   I can't really complain since others had far far worse.   Some waited 2 weeks or more for power to return.  Others lost their homes outright to wind, flood or fire damage.  I hope that you, Dear Reader, safely survived the weather and its aftermath, and that everything is returning to normal as quickly as possible.


Today I got to enjoy a rare mid-week day off from my day job.  I was lazily skimming thru emails when I noticed that the Improv Challenge was this week!  And by this week I mean this. Thursday. Morning!  I had to head back to the Try-n-Save, where a mere 7 days earlier found me performing major fridge restockification, to purchase sweet potatoes, already having the other required ingredient of honey safely in the pantry.  The NJ temperature outside stubbornly refused to match last week's Israel's balmy 80s, so instead of making my first choice of sweet potato rolls I went with something a more appropriate for the 40 degree weather ... sweet potato soup.

My swag bag from the Kosher Blogger Conference this past Monday (another story for another post) contained, among other items, a packet of zhug,  a spice mixture that for many of you may be a tad unfamiliar.  Pronounced incorrectly most of the time (shhhh, but with a z, quickly followed by hoog while simultaneously clearing your throat), zhug is a middle-eastern hot sauce, wildly popular in Israel.  I think it was even an ingredient in the pizza we had one lunch during our trip (I was falafelled and Israeli-saladded out by day 3).    Usually found in saucy condiment form, my zhug sample was a mixture of various ground spices.  If zhug in any form isn't available by you, see the ingredients list for a reasonable substitute.

Because I served this soup alongside a meat dinner, I used real chicken broth.  It can easily be made parve/vegan by using vegetarian chicken broth instead, or dairy by using said veggie broth and either cream or half-and-half for the rice (or coconut) milk. 

Spiced-Up Sweet Potato Soup
Serves 4

1 Tbl. olive oil
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
1/2 tsp. dry zhug mixture (or 1/4 tsp. each ground garlic, coriander, cumin, cardamom and 1/8 tsp. each ground cloves and crushed red pepper)
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. curry powder
4 cups chicken stock
2 Tbl. honey
1 cup rice (or coconut) milk, plus more for garnish
1 tsp. kosher salt, or to taste
1 Tbl. cilantro leaves

Heat oil in a 4-quart saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onions, and saute for 2 minutes or until onion is coated with oil and its leaves start to separate.

Add sweet potatoes and stir to coat with oil as well.

Zhug is pretty!  And pretty hot, too!

Sprinkle on zhug, cinnamon, ginger and curry.

Stir in chicken stock and honey. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes, or until sweet potatoes are tender.

Remove from heat and puree with an immersion blender.

Stir in rice (or coconut) milk. Add salt, then taste and add more if needed.

Swirl is more pronounced if coconut milk is used.

Ladle into 4 soup bowls.  Swirl on a few tablespoons of rice (or coconut) milk and garnish with a few cilantro leaves just before serving.

Disclaimer - because this recipe is part of an online cooking challenge group, the linked recipes below might not be kosher.


Melody Shingler said…
mmmmmmmmmmmmm -- your soup looks so hearty! I'm glad Sandy merely grazed your place. (Although, I know from experience that returning from vacation to spoiled frig & freezer contents is never pleasant...)
Lizzy Do said…
What a yummy soup!! Love all the autumn spices and more!
Love all the flavors in your soup! It looks delish!
Lisa~~ said…
I'm going to have to look for the zhug, it sounds wonderful as does your soup. Glad that you home fared well during the storms and while you were away.

My sweet potato & honey recipe: Sweet Potato Glass Noodles with Honey Garlic Lime Shrimp.
Kristen said…
I am so intrigued by zhug. I wonder if I can find any around my area. This soup looks delicious.

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