I always tell the truth – especially if you ask me a question point-blank – so I’ll be upfront and tell you that there are some things I cook that my children refuse to eat. There doesn’t seem to be a huge amount of logic behind what they like, it just seems that they have all decided to have a position and for the time being they are sticking with it. It also seems to depend on their whims.
The Son has decided that cookies with fruit are disgusting (I think he thinks we’re trying to trick him into eating more fruit; he would be right.). The Oldest, who has always had the broadest of tastes, has suddenly decided that all vegetables are suspect, but in a surprise move, she has started eating oatmeal again. The Poppet looked ready to turn a corner into what I might call a sensible outlook, but in truth hasn’t veered too much from her usual stance against meat; in other words, it must be soft, or it must be covered with a sweet and sticky sauce.
So I pretty much do my own thing and hope that their tastebuds and moods will all catch up. In the meantime, The Author and I do quite well mopping up their plates.
Also, luckily for me, I cook for many other people in the course of a week, people who are over 14 years old and who like all kinds of food. Last week I made this soup for 70 people, and not one person complained about the vegetables in it, or the lime juice, or the coconut, or the fact that it is, erm, soup (something which The Son particularly loathes, unless he’s starving and there are lentils in it, or sometimes especially if he’s starving and there are lentils in it.)
Having kids has taught me that when it comes to dinner, you can’t win them all. But that’s okay, because this soup is too good to share.
Sri Lankan Potato Soup
About 10 servings
This recipe is one that I created a few years ago, trying to capture the flavours of Sri Lankan cuisine in a vegetarian soup. (Yes, this is how I occupy my time.) Because I haven’t been to Sri Lanka yet, I have no idea how authentic this is, but I have served it to various people from there, and it gets rave reviews – so much so that I might even try it on my family.
Despite the seemingly large amount of chilies, this soup is not terribly spicy. If you wanted more of a kick you could leave the seeds and membrane of the chilies intact before you process them; remember, the flesh is hot, the seeds are hotter, and the membrane (the whitish part holding the seeds in place) is the hottest, so you can remove what you want accordingly.
- 100ml (3 oz.) peanut or vegetable oil
- 400g (1 lb.) onions or shallots, chopped
- 1 tsp fenugreek, ground
- 2 tsp cumin, ground
- 2 tsp coriander seed, ground
- 1.5 tsp turmeric
- 2 tsp salt
- 8 garlic cloves, peeled
- 4 green chilies, deseeded and roughly chopped
- 900g (2 lbs) potatoes, diced (you don’t need to peel them just scrub well)
- 900ml (30 oz.) water
- 400g (14 oz.) tomatoes, chopped (tinned are fine)
- 400ml (14 oz.) coconut milk
- juice of one lime
In a large pot, heat the oil and add the onions and salt. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the onions are starting to turn translucent, about 10 minutes. While the onions are cooking, finely chop the garlic and chilies; you can do this by hand with a sharp knife, but I find that it’s so satisfyingly easy in a little food processor. Stir the chili/garlic mix and the four spices into the onions, and cook until the onions are quite wilted and reduce in size but not browned.
Stir in the potatoes, coating them well with the spiced onion mixture and cook them for a few minutes, allowing them to take on some colour from the heat. Then pour in the water and scrape up any caramelised bits from the bottom of the pot. Add the tomatoes, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and let cook until the potatoes are very tender (about 20-30 minutes).
Take out about 1/2 of the contents of the soup pot, and blend it in a food processor or blender until it is smooth. Return it to the soup, stir in the coconut milk and the lime juice, and then adjust the seasoning.
You could also add some fresh, chopped coriander before serving. If you have under-14s, I’d say best leave it out.