I can’t believe it’s April already. The clocks have sprung forward, the days are getting longer and I feel less inclined to spend hours slaving over a hot stove, metaphorically speaking.
It’s still springtime, in both a meteorological and astronomical sense, and still perfect for down-to-earth one-pot soup. However, with balmy weather – hopefully – ahead it’s time to get lively and be different.
I’ve thought long and hard about which soup to share this month. Spring is a time for fields full of frolicking lambs, woodlands full of morel mushrooms and Wells-next-the-Sea full of fresh crab. Cream of mushroom with garlic toast, crab and sweetcorn or a light version of Irish stew would all have been perfect. But…
Spring is time for experimentation and for this month’s inspiration I can thank the Romans: the name April derives from the Roman name Aprillis, from the verb ‘to open’ and there is nothing better to open this April than Easter eggs.
And if there is one food group that Henpicked wise women are partial to, it’s chocolate!
It would have been easy to offer a chocolate dessert soup but I’m more a savoury cook and instead have turned westwards to the Caribbean for this month’s soupy adventure.
I have never been, it is a bucket list destination, but their food is a fusion of African, French, Arab, Indian and Chinese. It’s unique. It ticks all my cuisine taste boxes in one swoop!
I can picture myself sitting on a white sandy beach, listening to the waves gently rolling in, the soothing breeze carrying supper’s tantalising aromas to my nostrils to tease my taste buds as I dream.
A Caribbean supper is one of the few things worth putting a good book down for or the lawnmower, paintbrush or any other tools associated with the reality of spring…anyway, I’d best get cooking.
In Europe chocolate is traditionally a sweet food but history shows us that the Mesoamerican people drank a ‘bitter water’ made from the seeds of the cacao tree.
To this day in many Central American countries, Mexico and the Caribbean cocoa continues to crop up frequently in dinner rather than dessert.
My Caribbean chocolate soup is savoury. I promise it isn’t an April fool so please don’t be tempted to make it pudding, but it could be a cracker for the Easter weekend – perhaps not so good for World Health Day on 7 April.
Actually, having said that, it isn’t unhealthy – like most soups this is nutritious, tasty and good for you. The serotonin in the chocolate is good for your brain!
Remember to adjust the seasoning to suit your tastes. My recipe is just a guide but it is important that you use a chocolate with a high cocoa content, in savoury cooking the higher the better. Dairy Milk just isn’t going to work for this meal so eat that and instead use a bitter dark chocolate in the soup!
Caribbean chocolate soup (serves 4)
- 2 dashes of olive oil
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- Chilli flakes to taste
- Garlic to taste
- ½ tsp allspice
- ½ tsp cinnamon
- 1 butternut or other squash, peeled, de-seeded and chopped into bite-size pieces
- 1 tbsp Demerara sugar (other sugars will work too)
- I can chopped tomatoes or passata
- 1 pint chicken/vegetable stock
- 50g dark chocolate, at least 70% cacao content
- 125ml cream/sour cream or crème fraîche
- Handful of Parmesan cheese or strong cheddar, grated or cubed.
How to cook Caribbean chocolate soup:
- Fry the onion in a splash of oil, over a medium heat (2 mins) then add garlic, chilli flakes, allspice and cinnamon (2 mins).
- Add another splash of oil to the pan, warm through then add the squash. Cook gently for 5 minutes, turning so nothing burns.
- Add the sugar, the can of chopped tomatoes or passata plus the chicken/vegetable stock. Check the seasoning and adjust depending upon your taste.
- Simmer for 15 minutes and check the seasoning again. If happy, cook until the butternut squash is soft, if it isn’t already.
- Blend all if you prefer a smooth soup, half to thicken a little or none if you prefer your soup with texture…
- Add the chocolate and heat gently, stirring until dissolved (3 mins).
Then serve in bowls with a liberal splash of cream/sour cream or crème fraiche and a spoonful of Parmesan cheese or strong cheddar, grated or cubed.