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Caveman Soup

One of my favourite things ever are lime and black pepper chips. I remember seeing them in the shops, thinking “who on earth would eat those” and then being bullied into trying them, loving them, and pretty much living on them and Blue Costello cheese for a year while I did honours.

So the other day when co-worker mentioned (nose upturned) her friend was raving about lime and sweet potato soup, instead of joining the general flavour confusion, I begged for the recipe, and now I want to share it with you.

Soups are fantastic and filling, and as you may be noticing from recent posts, I pretty much live on them during winter. I think this particular soup makes a great addition to the winter repertoire because while the sweet potato keeps it filling, the lime gives a fresh zang, which is such a nice break from the heartier fare I tend to during this season.

The recipe is originally from the paleo (or caveman) diet. Which is quite possibly the most stupid diet ever.  For those who don’t know the paleo diet argues that our bodies and metabolisms evolved for conditions thousands of years ago, and haven’t adjusted to modern conditions. This far I agree with. As anyone losing weight would know, a lot of our bodies responses to calories were designed for times of scarcity and famine in the cradle of humanity somewhere in Africa, that’s why we crave dense energy sources (like that stable of the traditional African diet, potato chips) and why our metabolism assumes famine and starts conserving energy and eating muscle  if we don’t eat within 30 minutes of getting up.

But the paleo diet responds to that assumption by declaring we should cut out any foods that didn’t belong on the pre-agrarian menu. Which means grains, white potato, sugar… I don’t know, that’s when i decided it was stupid. I’m just going to assume anyone who is reading this blog agrees that the whole point of the evolution of human civilisation has been to get the fire inside houses and into ovens and the wheat into flour so we could make cakes. Though I guess Paleo would still be pro almond meal, and therefore pro sugarless macaroons… which were obviously every caveman’s favourite treat and what they used to make their sweethearts to make up for dragging them round by their hair.

Also, I’m pretty sure cavepeople were just gettign the hang of burning thir meat – they didn’t make soup.

I basically disagree with any diet that claims if you just cut out 1 thing (or several) you can otherwise eat what you want and be happy, healthy and thin. Diets like that are not sustainable in the long term, and they’re not accurate. Yes, there is a lot wrong with how we eat now, but the problem is how we eat, not what. Sugar is not actually poison. Humans would be extinct if it was. Carbs do not magically make us fat, having “fries with that” or two cups of pasta covered in cream does. And any diet that thinks not eating fruit or vegetables for 10 days is “good for you” just seems to fundamentally miss something about nutrition.

Anyway, diet rant over. What I mean to say is don’t hold the origin of this recipe against it. It was really yum, really light, really filling, and really easy. It did not however make me want to grab a big stick and go hunt dinner.

Sweet potato lime soup recipe

3 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks;

4 cups chicken or vegetable stock

3 thin slices fresh ginger;

2 lime leaves;

¾ cup coconut milk;

½ cup water;

2 tbsp lime juice;

A dash of sea salt and good grind of black pepper;

In a large sauce pan over a medium-high heat, combine the sweet potatoes, stock, ginger and lime leaves. Allow the contents to come to a boil and then turn the heat down to medium-low and continue to simmer for about 20 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender to the touch.

Remove the lime leaves

Remove the soup from the heat and use a hand-mixer or a blender to blend the soup until completely smooth.

Return the soup to a low heat and mix in the coconut milk, water and lime juice. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir well. You will know everything is mixed correctly once the coconut milk is completely blended in.

Peaceful, Picturesque, Perfect Prague:

My recent post about pumpkin soup got me thinking. I said at the time my mum makes the best soup in the world. And while I think it’s safe to continue saying she makes the best soup in Australia, with all respect to my mum, I might need to concede that I have had better soup. In Prague. That said, the soup in question was helped along by setting, hunger, and quite possibly the most perfect day ever, so I think memory has possibly made it marginally more special than it was. Mum can retain her crown. At least until I can go back for a second tasting.

Much like my previously discussed experience in Spain, Prague took me by surprise. I don’t think I had any concept of the Czech Republic at all before I left Australia. I was thrilled for Vienna and primed for Budapest, but hadn’t given Prague a second thought. People kept telling me how amazingly awesome it was, but I didn’t take it on board at all.

Here’s the thing. I still can’t tell you what’s so awesome about Prague. If I was to describe my day there to you, like I did in version one of this post, it would sound kind of boring, I went for a walk, sat in a park and read, walked some more, strolled along the banks of a river, crossed a bridge, wove my way up cobbled streets to the top of a hill, looked at an old church (with some stunning stain glass windows) and wound my way back down again. It’s not a day filled with punch or adventure. It was marvellous.

I had thought to abandon words all together. But I’ve looked and my pictures don’t capture the magic at all. There’s nothing for it, you’re going to have to go and experience Prague for yourself. But in the meantime, here’s my best effort to tell you what’s so fantastic and what you absolutely must go see.

The Architecture:

I don’t think I really understood the Belle Époque and Art Nouveau until I wandered the streets of Prague. I had never imagined that a city like this had ever, let alone still, existed. It’s somewhat like walking through streets that have appropriated the aesthetic of a Klimt painting. It’s compellingly as if you’ve been transported back a hundred years. Except it’s not. Because the ravages and hardships of the last hundred years, the wars, the occupations, the Soviet Bloc are faintly there to see and the whole reason why this marvellous architecture remains.

Cities reflect not just where the money is, but when it was. In Hobart where I grew up, most of the architecture in the city is colonial, with some sprinklings of Art Deco government buildings. At one time, the abundance of convict labour made construction cheap and the trade winds and abundance of whales made Hobart a regular stop on the trade route of the world. When technology (and morals) changed, so did Tasmania’s economic importance, and a lack of finances stoped old out-dated buildings from being torn down, until they were old enough that no one could. I haven’t read anything on the subject, so this is just conjecture, but I got the sense that Prague had a similar story. The late nineteenth early twentieth centuries saw a boom of money and culture and a blitz of gorgeous, innovative, arresting buildings. Then the wars, the occupations, the Eastern Bloc. By the time anyone was in a position to consider tearing these buildings down, why on earth would you want to.

Old Town:

 

The Old Town is equally lovely, though in a much more anticipated way. Cobble streets, red roofs, a fantastic Cathedral. I was very happy to get lost on this charming hillside for a few hours. And equally charmed by the antique stores filled with treasures and bohemian crystal.

Charles Bridge:

This is pegged as the big attraction in all the guidebooks, and rightly so. Its medieval sculptures inspire curiosity, and if appropriately informed are rich in legend and superstition, it affords lovely views down the river and up to the old town, and it’s the hub for things that are aimed at tourists, but which tourists want to see. And by this, what I really mean that there was a fantastic, rotating group of musicians playing fantastic, rustic, jazzy standards that transported me to another time. It was marvellous and I stood on that bridge in the cold much later into the night than was sensible, and again in the afternoon crush much longer than was comfortable. There was also a market in the afternoon, however I had shopped a great deal by that stage so didn’t pause to peruse.

The Water Colours:

Sure they’re tourist kitsch, and everywhere, but of all the tourist art I accumulated these are the purchases that still make me happy.

That Soup:

The lady who sold me this watercolour was friendly and full of advice on how to make the most of my day. Her big tip was to cross the road, turn left, walk 2 blocks and take an early lunch at her favourite cafe. “Like Paris” she said. And it was.

But it wasn’t like the Paris I’d just been too. If I squinted, twisted my head the right way and was willing to commit to it, it was the Paris of my dreams. The interior took the nostalgia architecture the step further, I was transported: beauty, glamour, the Belle Époque.

I ordered pea and potato soup with croutons, but it was just a wee bit more special than what I was expecting. My soup arrived with a flourish, a mould of fluffy potato, three long elegant croutons, a jug of frothy pea soup poured at the table with a dash of drama. It was all very simple and elegant, but dining with a touch of theatre made the experience so memorable and the day (and Prague) that bit more magical.