16 May 2012

Pumpkin, Leek and Sweet Potato Soup

The power of pumpkin and sweet potato are in their anti-cancer and antioxidant properties, whilst the leek is a good source of potassium and iron aiding with arthritis, gout and bladder stones.

Stuffed with Vitamin A, carotenoids, complex carbs, fibre, folate, B1 & B3, calcium, iron and more, makes this soup not just tasty but nice and healthy.  The sweet potato "boosts resistance to infection and helps maintain optimum energy levels"; the pumpkin "helps prevent the formation of cancer cells and helps promote healthy skin"; and the leek "is a diuretic, laxative, antiseptic and excellent for a healthy digestive tract" (extracts from The Complete Guide to Nutritional Health).

There are several varieties of sweet potato worldwide but they can be easily classed into two types.  The white type which has a chestnut-caramel flavour and the yellow/orange type which is sweet and watery.  I used the white version in the soup to reduce the sweetness and give it that chestnutty flavour.

The sweet potato pre-dates the normal potato by nearly 500 years.  It was cultivated in prehistoric Peru and is a staple food in the Caribbean and southern US.  It reached Polynesia and NZ in the 14th century and thanks to Columbus' exploring he introduced it to Spain and finally made its way to England mid-16th century just in time for the infamous Henry VIII to indulge in it.

Making its first appearance in the 17th century, the pumpkin most likely inspired Perrault's "pumpkin turned into a golden coach" in his Cinderella story.  Originally from the US, the pumpkin is steeped in Thanksgiving and Halloween traditions.  A winter vegetable (but found all year round), the pumpkin stores well for long periods of time in a dark, cool place.

With a long history, the leek was once considered a sacred plant in ancient Egypt and highly enjoyed by the Romans and Greeks of that time.  It seems to have fallen out of favour during the 16th-18th century.  According to Wikipedia, "the leek is also a national emblem of Wales.  Legend says, Saint David ordered his Welsh soldiers to identify themselves by wearing the vegetable on their helmets in an ancient battle against the Saxons that took place in a leek field".

Pumpkin, Leek & Sweet Potato Soup

1 large leek, chopped
1 garlic, peeled and chopped
0.5 bunch of parsley, finely chopped
1 kg pumpkin, peeled and chopped
600g sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp minced ginger
3 tsp ground cumin
1.5L water or vegetable stock
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to season (I used water instead of stock and hence added 1tsp of sea salt)
Natural yoghurt, optional


In a saucepan, saute the onion, garlic & parsley with 0.25C of water for 5 minutes (add a bit more water if it evaporated).

Add the pumpkin, sweet potato and coriander, stir well and cook for a further minute. Add the water or stock, bring to boil and simmer for 15 minutes or until the veggies are tender.

Let it cool and blend until smooth. Add a tablespoon of yoghurt for a creamier flavour. Season with sea salt & freshly ground pepper.