Sweet Potato Soup with Pitta Bread Croutons 

I honestly don’t remember ever eating sweet potato as a child. I don’t know if this is because 15 years ago it wasn’t a very popular vegetable here in the U.K. or if it was because my parents just overlooked it. Now I’m a grown up I pick up a massive sweet potato every time I do the grocery shopping. There’s a lot you can do with this lovely, gnarly looking tuber. This soup is fast to make and very cost effective. It’s also delicious and vegan. I use a lot of different spices in this recipe but don’t let the epic ingredients list put you off. The Pitta croutons are a great way of using up stale leftovers. You can use any bread for this but I seem to always end up with spare pittas lurking in my bread bin. This recipe makes enough for two hungry adults with a bit left over for tomorrow’s lunch. It will store in the fridge for up to five days in an airtight container or in the freezer for a month. 


Ingredients 

  • 3 sticks of celery, chopped
  • 1 large onion, chopped 
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • Approximately 750g diced sweet potato 
  • 1/2 tsp celery salt
  • 1/2 tsp allspice 
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg 
  • Pinch of cinnamon 
  • Pinch of thyme 
  • Pinch of oregano 
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • Pinch of dried chipotle chilli flakes 
  • 2 stale Pitta breads, cut into shards
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • Salt and pepper 

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to its highest setting. 
  2. Sweat the onion and celery in a large saucepan with a little oil.
  3. When they are translucent, add the garlic, sweet potato, spices and herbs. Sautee on a low heat for 5 minutes.
  4. Cover with water, bring to a boil and simmer with the lid on until the sweet potato is soft.
  5. Whilst the soup is simmering, place the shards of Pitta on a baking sheet and drizzle with the oil. Sprinkle with sea salt and bake for 3 minutes. Remove from the oven, flip them over and bake for another 3 minutes, or until the croutons are brown and crunchy. 
  6. When the sweet potato is soft, use an immersion blender and wazz until the soup is smooth and silky. At this point you may need to add a bit more liquid to your soup, unless you like it like wall paper paste. I just add water but if you’re feeling decadent you could add milk or even cream. Let the soup down as much as you feel necessary, little by little. Season to taste.
  7. Serve the soup with the croutons piled on top and garnish with freshly grated nutmeg and black pepper. 

Tips

  • If you don’t have all of the spices I’ve listed here, don’t worry! Use what you have in your spice rack. The essential ones are thyme, oregano, nutmeg and paprika and I’ll bet you already have those. 
  • Add as much chilli as you like. I like a lot of chilli in this but my small child does not. I prefer to add hot sauce or chopped fresh chilli to my own bowl.
  • If you don’t have any Pitta bread to use up, just use whatever other bread you have in the house. This will work with anything from tortilla to hot dog buns. Simply cut them to whatever shape you like and keep an eye on the baking time. 
  • This crouton recipe will also work for gluten free bread, but I’d recommend using a medium setting on your oven as gluten free bread often has a high sugar content which burns faster. 



Wild Garlic


In case you haven’t heard, spring has officially sprung. Daffodils and tulips are flowering, trees are covered in blossom and Easter is just around the corner. I love this time of year. I feel so refreshed when the sun starts to show its face again; everything is green and new and I want to be outside as much as possible. 

Something that is synonymous with spring, especially in the food world is Wild Garlic. If you go in to any forest or wooded area you are highly likely to stumble across a bountiful crop of wild garlic. It grows rampantly in shady places from March until May, flowering around mid April. As far as foraging goes it’s a fairly easy one to spot and you will certainly smell it before you see it. The leaves are broad and richly coloured with dainty white, star shaped flowers. I am no expert in foraging and I’d never given wild food a second thought until a couple of years ago except for the obligatory late-summer blackberry picking. If you are interested in going out to pick some wild garlic for yourself, it’s important to make sure you know exactly what you are looking for. Wild Garlic is easy to identify because it is so pungent but I still recommend looking at various different sources online and checking out your local library for a book on foraging. Wild Garlic is sometimes mistaken for Lily of the Valley which is extremely toxic, so again, be certain of what you are picking. Another few things to remember when foraging for wild food is to be respectful of the environment. Never, ever pull the plant up by its root. Only take the leaves and flowers. Don’t take too much from one spot and remember that this is natures larder. It doesn’t belong to you or anyone else, so don’t take advantage of it or be selfish.

Wild Garlic can be used in so many thing in the kitchen in exactly the same way you would use regular bulb garlic. If you are stirring it into a dish in lieu of normal garlic, I recommend treating it as you would any other fresh herb. Finely chop and stir in at the very end of cooking so that the beautiful flavour is not lost. Wild Garlic can also be used to make a butter, by chopping and mixing in to salted butter. Some people use it in a salad and you can also make a lovely soup with it. 

I like to make wild garlic pesto firstly because we are big pesto fans in this house and secondly because it’s damn good. Making Pesto with wild garlic turns it from a “what the hell do I do with this” ingredient to a “what can I not do with this” ingredient. A couple of things I like to do with it are simply stir it into cooked spaghetti and use a basic white dough to make cheese and pesto swirls.


Wild Garlic Pesto

Ingredients 

  • 300g Wild Garlic
  • 100g grated Parmesan
  • 150g olive oil
  • 100g pine nuts 
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Juice of half a lemon

Method

  1. Thoroughly wash the wild garlic and inspect it to make sure you haven’t picked up any non-edible greens or stowaways (bugs). Use a clean tea towel to dry the leaves gently. Then roughly chop the garlic.
  2. Firstly put the pine nuts in your food processor with the oil and salt and blend.
  3. Then add the wild garlic, a handful at a time. Finish with the the lemon juice. 
  4. Keep blending until it reaches your desired smoothness. I prefer mine a little chunky.
  5. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for 5 days. You can also freeze this for up to one month.