Saturday was the 14th of July, France’s national day, or Bastille day as it seems to be called in English. In French, we just call it le 14 juillet, and it is, obviously, a day of national celebration. This post was actually planned for Saturday, but my photo editing program decided to go on strike, presumably in honour of France, so that obviously didn’t happen. But today’s recipe is worth the three-day delay (and pre-recipe rambling), I promise. Whenever we spent le 14 juillet in France, my main memories are of food, followed by fireworks. Always a winning combination. Ordinarily, I’d have probably thrown a dinner party for le 14 juillet, but aside from the minor logistical issue of only having a tiny dining table with a grand total of two chairs, one of my labmates was having a birthday party in the evening. I also had a friend staying for the weekend, and we had various things planned, resulting in a busy but thoroughly enjoyable weekend, which included discovering a new farmers’ market and a wine tasting (always a win).
The closest we got to something specifically French-oriented was going to see a so-dreadful-it-was-hilarious stage version of ‘Allo ‘Allo. My other little nod to le 14 juillet was my party contribution in the form of madeleines (which are not the subject of today’s blog post… apologies if you got your hopes up there!). However, if I had been hosting a 14 juillet dinner party, I’d have made soup for starters (remember it’s winter here), specifically sweet potato and pear soup, which isn’t especially French, but is utterly delicious.
This is actually one of my favourite soups, because it’s wonderfully smooth and creamy, which I adore. The combination of sweet potato and pear may sound a little strange, but it results in a very refined flavour, making this soup a perfect dinner party starter, with the added bonus that it can be prepared in advance. It’s so delicious that it would be a shame to restrict this soup to just dinner parties though, particularly since it’s so easy to make. In fact, this was the soup that Kat and I had after spending several hours in the snow queuing for Christmas Ball tickets and discussing my idea to start a blog. Certainly not a dinner party, but definitely what we needed to warm up on that wintery day! Since sweet potatoes and pears are currently in season here in NZ, this is my entry to this month’s Simple and in Season blog event, which was started by Ren at Fabulicious Food, and currently hosted by Homemade by Fleur.
Sweet potato & pear soup
Adapted from my mum’s recipe
Make sure you blend the soup to within an inch of its life, because this soup is all about the smooth creaminess, which is what makes it feel quite light. If the soup is too thick for your liking, just add a little bit of water and mix well before adding the cream. This soup freezes really well – freeze at the end of step 4, before adding the cream, and then once defrosted, heat the soup up and just add the cream right before serving.
1 small onion
800g orange sweet potatoes (orange kumara)
2 pears (Doyenné de Comice if you can get them)
800ml vegetable stock or water
200ml crème fraîche
A few sage leaves to garnish (optional)
1. Dice the onion. Peel and dice the sweet potatoes and pears.
2. Sweat the onion in some butter in a large saucepan or pot for a few minutes, but don’t allow it to brown. Add the sweet potato and pear and allow to cook for about 5 mins, stirring often.
3. Add the vegetable stock (if you don’t have any, you can just use water) and bring to the boil. Cover and simmer for about 20 mins.
4. Remove from the heat and blend until perfectly smooth. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper and return to the heat if necessary.
5. Swirl a big spoonful of crème fraîche into each bowl and garnish with a couple of sage leaves before serving.
Enjoy and I hope you had a wonderful 14 juillet!