African peanut soup

You know how sometimes you have distinct memories of nothing in particular? I barely remember what I ate for lunch yesterday, but for some reason, I have a very clear memory of eating peanut soup on the terrace of The House of Wonders in Zanzibar in 2000.I have had the moment jotted down in my holiday notebook since January 2000. It has taken CV lockdown for me to actually find the recipe and get around to making it. So now,I will always associate peanut soup with that special dinner in Stone Town Zanzibar.
We had visited in the morning and thoroughly enjoyed pottering in the palace,  taking in its artefacts and having noticed a small restaurant with an interesting menu and stunning view over the gardens we decided to return for dinner. Here I sampled one of the best soups that I have ever tasted and dare I say it, the bill was peanuts.
House of Wonders (Beit al-Ajab)
 this is a virtual tour showing the very terrace where we ate dinner

It is the largest and tallest building of Stone Town and occupies a strategic place facing the Forodhani Gardens on the old town's seafront,in Mizingani Road. It is located between the Old Fort and the Palace Museum. The House of Wonders, or the sultan´s palace is one of Stone Town's most prominent landmarks, showcasing European and Omani influence not only in appearance, but also through the various exhibitions housed here.This was until 2012 the best place to catch up on Swahili and colonial culture.Sadly due to falling in to disrepair it was forced to close is doors
This iconic building rises in impressive tiers of slender steel pillars and balconies overlooking the waterfront. Its enormous carved doors are said to be the largest in East Africa, fronted by two bronze cannon with Portuguese inscriptions dating them to the 16th century.
Evocative of Stone Town and peppered by the spice tour we had been taken on.
Peanut soup is not exactly the lightest soup, but this recipe includes an option for trimming things down a little bit by using less coconut milk. I made the non-light version because even though this African Peanut Soup is pretty calorie-dense, it’s also very filling, so I don’t feel the need to go back for seconds. The sweet potato is perfect with the creamy, peanutty base.I also blended the soup which from my memory was how the soup was served to me.

African Peanut Soup
Having enjoyed this soup in Africa,it certainly fills the bill of a summer starter.
When I made it I had a fair quantity left over so I tried it chilled and it worked beautifully,but I would suggest the diluted version for this.Combined with a Thai red curry paste it makes a wonderful curry sauce.

3 cups vegetable stock or water
2 (15-ounce) cans coconut milk
1 cup diced yellow onion
1/2 cup diced celery
4 large garlic cloves, pressed or minced
1 teaspoon seeded and diced hot chilli pepper
4 cups chopped sweet potato (1/2-inch pieces)
1 1/2 cups chopped tomato (1/2-inch pieces) or 1 (14.5-ounce) can diced fire-roasted tomatoes
2 teaspoons sea salt, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
Pinch of cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon soy sauce (optional)
1 tablespoon Berbere spice mix (optional)
3/4 cup creamy or crunchy peanut butter
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh coriander leaves plus extra for garnish
1/2 cup roasted unsalted peanuts, for garnish

Sauté the onion, celery, and garlic and sweet potato in 1 tablespoon of oil before adding the vegetable stock.Cook for 5 minutes until vegetables start to soften.Add the chilli tomatoes,salt and pepper, spices and soya sauce if using.
Continue cooking for another 15 minutes stirring occasionally.
Remove about 1 cup of the liquid and place it into a small bowl. Add the peanut butter and stir until creamy. Return the mixture to the pan, stir well, and cook for a further 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add the coriander stir and then blend the soup till its smooth and velvety.  
Garnish with peanuts and extra coriander leaves before serving.
For a lighter soup, replace one can of coconut milk with an equivalent amount of vegetable stock or water.


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