This roasted squash sweet potato soup from Mozambique is silky smooth in texture, easy to make and brimming with a depth of flavours.
Spicy, creamy and packed with anti-oxidants, this bowl of roasted squash and sweet potato soup, gently simmered to perfection in a coconut milk base is my idea of the perfect dish for a cold and dark winters’ evening.
This recipe is an adaptation of a complex Mozambican recipe handed to me by one of my Mozambican friend Frida. In keeping this recipe true to its African roots, this simple soup, like this Ghanaian Fish Soup, features a lot more than just 5 or 6 ingredients! But don’t be intimidated by what might appear to be a long list of ingredients. Traditional African cuisine derives its’ deep flavours from the various spices used, which invariably lends itself to a long list of ingredients.
One of the most significant things about African culture is the key role that food plays. Food is the glue that binds the people of the great continent together and this is reflected in the culture. Every facet of human relations; personal or professional, revolves around food, and as such, the use of a multitude of fresh spices and ingredients, in various combinations, gives rise to the naturally complex flavours which abound in Afro-fusion cooking.
The use of spices is also prolific in Mozambican cuisine, perhaps due to the country’s position in Southern West Africa, which gave it an important role during the spice trade. In addition, Mozambique’s colonisation by Portugal led to new methods of spicing and roasting of meats and vegetables.
This squash and sweet potato soup kicks off with roasting the gourd and potatoes, which sets off a complex series of chemical reactions which concentrates the sugars in the vegetables and deepens the flavours.
First, the Maillard reaction – which is the process of browning that occurs when meat is roasted or seared kicks off.
In addition, caramelisation also takes place. During caramelisation, the naturally occurring carbohydrate in the gourd are broken down by the heat into simple sugars, intensifying the sweetness of the pumpkin. Together, these chemical reactions are responsible for the resulting depth of flavours obtained from roasting the gourd.
My gourd of choice is a pumpkin, but you can use any other squash, such as acorn squash or butternut squash. In choosing the pumpkin, I am partial to the smaller variety of pumpkins known as Sugar Pumpkins. When selecting your gourd, go for the heaviest pumpkin for its’ size. The heavier the pumpkin for its’ size, the more flavoursome the pumpkin.
Never roasted a pumpkin before? No worries. It’s easy-peasy simple:
Split it in half, then quarters, and then eighths.
Rub some olive oil on the flesh to promote an even distribution of heat on the flesh.
Season it (but go easy on the seasoning – you just want to complement the natural sweetness of the gourd and not overwhelm it).
Pop it in the oven et voila! I am currently watching Season 6 of Game of Thrones and so this is the part where you switch on your BBC iPlayer.
With the roasting done, all that remains is to build a complementary soup base. I prefer onions sautéed in coconut oil, and simmered gently in coconut milk with a bit of cumin to give a hint of a heady earthiness.
Armed with my bowl of soup, and the pervasive sweet smell of roasted pumpkin coming from my kitchen, all I need now to do, is to close my eyes for a minute, and I can hear the drums that so distinctly remind me of home…
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Afro-fusion Food Lover.
Sustainable Food Advocate.
Completely nuts about Avocado.