February 19, 2007

Sweet potato stew

When I read that Alanna from A Veggie Venture had dubbed February the Month of Soup and invited everyone to post their favorite soup recipes, I knew exactly what I was going to share. Let me tell you why...

I was born and raised in a tropical country where the only seasons we have are hot and hotter, with the occasional wet season when the heavens open up and the rains come pounding for days on end. In January 2002 however, I moved to London. In the dead of winter. When darkness fell at 4:00 in the afternoon. I had to acclimatize overnight and as would be expected of any warm-blooded girl from the islands, I despised it.

Those first couple of months were my most lonely and trying. I was a long way from home and living alone for the first time in my life. I couldn't properly deal with personal issues such as homesickness, which was the most prevalent, because there were business matters to take care of. It was after all, the reason for the move. So I hit the ground running, temporarily neglecting my inner fears and emotions. Sooner than later, it was starting to take it's toll on me and the pressures of doing everything single-handedly was almost too much to handle.

I needed some serious nurturing and comforting! And while I had friends and relatives there who were extremely supportive, I had to start taking care of myself. One of the things that needed a drastic change was my diet. One could subsist on those pre-packed convenience-store sandwiches only for so long. Yes, folks, that was my epiphany. I couldn't stomach another one of those egg-salad sandwich wedges so I had to learn to cook. It was learn to cook or starve. So I bought cookbooks (I found myself frequenting Books for Cooks which was conveniently located across my favorite bookstore in Notting Hill, the Travel Bookshop) and waded through pages and pages online bookmarking recipes as I went. That was when I found this recipe for sweet potato stew. It sounded perfect!

Not only is the sweet potato (locally known as kamote) one of my most favorite vegetables, it reminded me of home where it was practically a staple on our table. It sounded easy enough to make but I was a little nervous, this being one of my first times to ever cook anything on my own and all. To my surprise and delight it turned out wonderful! It was hearty, flavorful and had just the right amount of heat. Oh and healthy too! Did you know the sweet potato is chock-ful of goodness? In fact, it was ranked the #1 most nutritional vegetable, by the CSPI. Proof that not everything good is bad for you! ;)

With each spoonful came a flood of warmth and memories. It was just the thing this tired and lonely soul needed on that cold winter night. :) And even back home where the mercury rises, it still makes for a very satisfying and delicious meal.

Sweet Potato Stew
adapted from a recipe site online (sorry, it's been so long I don't remember which site)

1 small onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
½ yellow bell pepper, chopped
½ red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 cup tomato sauce
2 cups water
½ can (28 oz.) diced tomatoes
2 cups diced peeled sweet potatoes
1 can (15 oz) black beans, rinsed & drained
1 tbsp chilli powder
1 tsp. ground cumin
fresh oregano
salt & pepper to taste

Heat some extra-virgin olive oil in large saucepan. Cook the onions and garlic until lightly browned. Add bell peppers and saute for 5 minutes.

Stir in water, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, beans, chilis, sauce, chili powder and cumin.Cook over medium heat for 20 to 25 minutes or until thickened and potatoes are cooked through.
Season with salt and cracked black pepper, and serve hot with some crusty bread.

If you're in need of some soothing nourishment or just simply looking for new soup ideas, head on over to A Veggie Venture and check out all the delicious-sounding recipes posted there.

Thank you, Alanna, for letting me play. :)


Alanna Kellogg said...

Hi Christine ~ Whoa, with a story like that I hope you'll come out to 'play' again and again! What a lovely tale! I could almost feel the cold and loneliness and yes, the resolve and fortitude. Thanks so much for the contribution to Soup's On!

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

Ooooh, Books for Cooks in London is one of my favorite shops! I haven't been there for years, but they used to serve lunch at little tables scattered throughout the bookshelves.

SeƱor Enrique said...

Hi Christne,

Ran into Anton, Ivan Henares and Sidney Snoeck in Chinatown last Saturday. Over some dimsun at President Restaurant, I raved about how elegant your food features are, including your picnic spread, which reminds me of how friends did at Central Park whenever there was a free NY symphony concert at the park.

Anonymous said...

"Cook or starve" -- sigh...reminds me of my own epiphany! ;) That soup sounds fantastic, and you know I also love sweet potatoes. Nice to know they are super healthy! I think I'm going to buy some soon...

Sigh...reading you post reminds me of winter in Europe...and my shock and indignation at having to wear so much clothes! Hahaha :) So glad that you were there too and that we got to have our adventures! You really helped me a lot Nenuk!!! You're an AWESOME friend! :)

christine said...

Thank you, Alanna! That was a really great idea, and I'm still not done checking out everyone's entries, there's tons of good ones on there! :)

Lydia, yes! I was lucky to have reached a few of those. Most of the time the food they lay out are from the cooking classes they hold regularly. I thought about joining in, but the good ones were always on weekdays which was out of the question for me. It's such an awesome shop isn't it?! :)

Hey Eric, thanks! I'm very flattered. I'm a frustrated photographer, which is why I love all the tips you've been sharing with us your readers. :) Hey, I celebrated Chinese new year for the first time this year, but with Carlos Celdran on Sat night. Iplan to post about it soon. :)

christine said...

Joey, it was a blessing to have you as my "neighbor" in Europe and that we got to do all that fun stuff as we travelled around together. :) Those are some of my fondest memories! Thank you too, you are even more AWESOME! :)

Anonymous said...

Hi, Christine! Timely recipe you have there; with Lent coming up, I have to look for meatless recipes for fast days!

Incidentally, with reference to your post about Malaysian food, have you tried Penang Hill at Shangri-la Plaza? The food's wonderful!

christine said...

Hi Midge! I'm always on the lookout for good veggie recipes because I love veggies and Alanna's site is a good place to start. And yes, Lent officially start today so even more reason for these recipes! :)

And no, I haven't tried Penang Hill yet but I would really like to especially after reading your post about it! It's just difficult for me to plan a dinner/lunch anywhere beyond Makati hehe. Thanks for the tip! :)

Lori said...

This is perfect! I LOVE sweet potatoes.

christine said...

Hi Lori! So nice to see lots of sweet potato lovers out there. :) It may be one of homelier veggies, but it's definitely one of the most versatile, healthy and delicious! It really doesn't get any better than that.