I think Matt should have spoken to victims of my cooking before asking me to roll up my sleeves and put on my pinny this week, but then you can’t really go wrong with soup. Though I prefer the instinctive approach to ingredients and quantities, and treat recipes as suggestions rather than prescriptions, the list and method here should work as stated. If you feel like adding in a bay leaf, or a star anise star, or a cinnamon stick, or some hot sauce, don’t let me stop you.
Sweet Potato Soup (Serves 4)
1oz butter or oil
1 medium onion
1 stick of celery
1 clove of garlic
1 pint chicken stock
1 large sweet potato
1 tablespoon peanut butter, coarse or smooth
½ pint double cream
a pinch of nutmeg
salt and pepper
Peel and roughly chop the sweet potato and set it aside. Chop the onion and celery fairly finely and soften them in the butter, until soft but not browned, for ten minutes or so in a large saucepan. When you think they’re about right, chop the garlic finely, add it to the pan and stir it about for a minute.
Then add the sweet potato, chicken stock, peanut butter and a pinch of nutmeg. Bring the mixture to a boil, then turn down the heat and simmer the soup until the sweet potato is very tender. Then carefully mash, blend, blitz or otherwise liquidize your soup and return it to the pan over a gentle heat. You have to keep stirring from now on. Add the cream and some salt and pepper and keep warming the pan until the soup is heated right through.
The wine match
The first wine that comes to mind is Eric Monnin’s Dignité Viognier, a fragrant, powerful white from the Languedoc that has the body to suit the smooth richness of the soup, and a spiciness from new oak aging to enhance what the nutmeg’s doing.
Another favourite white, and a good match for the creamy weight of the soup, with its full, slightly off-dry body, vanilla oak, and a long, fruity finish is Ampélomeryx from Domaine Pellehaut in south-west France. Every bottle you buy contributes to research into the prehistoric mammal on the label, by the way.
If you’d like a New World option, you should go for the King’s Bastard Chardonnay made in Marlborough, New Zealand by Brent Marris. Trust me, it’s the one.
Perhaps the best choice of all, and a traditional match for soups, is a fine sherry. I’d choose the reassuringly expensive Oloroso from our Fernando de Castilla selection for its nutty fullness and aromas of orange peel and dried fruit (though it’s a fully dry style).