This week's recipe comes from What to Cook and How to Cook It (Phaidon), a phenomenal new cookbook that takes readers through recipes step-by-step for "foolproof cooking," says our cookbook columnist.

Spicy Vegetable Soup

Preparation Time: 20 minutes
Cooking Time: 20 minutes
Serves 4 (with leftovers)

Economical, warming, and delicious, this lightly spiced soup will brighten up even the coldest of evenings. It thickens as it stands, so stir in a little extra water or broth if you need to re-heat it.



  • 2 tsp cumin seeds

  • ¼ tsp dried chili flakes

  • 2 onions

  • 3 cloves garlic

  • 1 thumb-size piece fresh ginger

  • 2 tbsp olive oil

  • 2 ¼ lb sweet potatoes

  • 1 (14-oz) can chickpeas, drained

  • 3 2/3 cups chicken or vegetable broth

  • 3 ½ oz baby spinach

  • salt and pepper

  • 4 tbsp thick plain yogurt, or more, to serve

  • 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, to serve



Heat a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the cumin seeds and chili flakes and cook for 1 minute, or until they start to jump around the pan and smell toasty. Scoop half of the spices out of the pan and set aside. Take the pan off the heat while you prepare the vegetables.


Chop the onions very roughly, crush the garlic, and finely grate the ginger. Gently heat the 2 tablespoons olive oil in the pan, then add the onions, garlic and ginger and cook gently for 5 minutes until the onions are starting to soften.

There’s no need to peel ginger if it’s going to be finely grated. Discard any skin and fibrous bits that you’re left with on the outside of the grater when you’re finished.


While you wait, peel and roughly chop the sweet potatoes.


Stir the sweet potatoes, chickpeas, and broth into the pan, cover with a lid, and simmer for 15 minutes, until the potatoes are soft.


Use a potato masher to mash most of the potato to a pulp to make a thick soup. Season with salt and pepper, then roughly chop the spinach and stir it in. After a few seconds the spinach will wilt.


Serve in bowls topped with a spoonful of the yogurt, a sprinkle of the reserved spice mixture, and a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil.

what to cook and how to cook it MAKE IT WITH SQUASH

Butternut squash or pumpkin work wonderfully in this soup, but can take a little while to prepare. Either buy pre-cut cubes or allow 10 more minutes to peel and seed the flesh

From What to Cook and How to Cook It (November 2010 $39.95), by Jane Hornby, Phaidon Press. Read our review of this book.

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