The other evening, I made a Sweet Potato and Poblano Pepper Soup, infused with virgin coconut oil, shallots and seasoned with just a hint of smoked paprika and cumin. It’s a favorite of ours now, though its potent heat needs balancing by good-sized spoonful of sour cream. My little boy likes it too, gobbling it up and asking for second and third bowls. It’s hot and sweet, and deeply pleasant.
And now that the days have turned bitterly cold as we await the warm breath of spring, I turn to soups like this one – soups that are twice hot: once in temperature, and again with spice.
Why Sweet Potatoes Love Coconut Oil
I start the soup by gently frying thinly sliced shallot and poblano peppers in a bit of coconut oil, before dropping in the sweet potatoes. You see, yellow and orange vegetables love coconut oil. Their natural sweetness benefits from the powdery, floral and very faintly exotic flavor of coconut oil. And, like all good things, when eaten together they complement each other, benefiting you more than if you ate them in isolation. Beta carotene is fat-soluble; that is, in order for your body to reap the benefits of this antioxidant, you’d do better to consume it with fat. Coconut oil, with its high content of lauric acid – an immune-supporting saturated fat that also increases HDL cholesterol – is a natural fit.
Lauric acid, abundant in coconut oil, can be otherwise difficult to find. Palm kernel oil contains a small amount as does human, cow and goat’s milk. While I tend to favor animal fats in cooking – ghee, butter, lard and bacon fat – because they’re easily had locally, I make an exception and buy a small amount of coconut oil each year for special dishes like this one, and to make sure we can enjoy all that lauric acid.
Where to Find Extra Virgin Coconut Oil
I favor extra virgin coconut oil. I like its mild, faintly sweet and very slightly coconut-like flavor, the clean way it melts and how it pairs with not only sweet potatoes, but also butternut squash and South Asian-inspired dishes. You can find unrefined extra virgin coconut oil in most well-stocked health food stores, but I typically purchase it online (see sources).
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin coconut oil ( find it here)
- 1 shallot, peeled and finely minced
- 2 poblano peppers, seeded and sliced thin
- 2 medium sweet potatoes or garnet yams (peeled and cubed)
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin (find it here)
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika (find it here)
- 1 tablespoon unrefined sea salt
- 2 quarts Roast Chicken Stock (get the recipe)
- Sour Cream, to serve
- Minced Red Onion, to serve
- Minced Cilantro, to serve
- Melt the coconut oil in a heavy-bottomed stock pot (like this one) over medium heat. Stir in the shallot, and fry gently until it softens and releases its fragrance. Stir in the poblano pepper, and fry until softened - about 4 minutes.
- Add the sweet potatoes to the pot along with cumin, smoked paprika and sea salt. Cover the pot and sweat the potatoes until they soften - about 10 minutes. Pour in the chicken stock, and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes or until the potatoes fall apart when pierced with a fork. Turn off the heat, and puree the soup with an immersion blender (you can get one here), until the soup is smooth and uniform.
- Ladle into soup bowls, and serve topped with sour cream, red onion and cilantro as you like it.