Sweet potato & coconut South Seas soup

Sweet potato & coconut South Seas soup

V is for Vegan

I made a scaled-up version of this soup at music festival Bestival when I did a desert island/pirate/18th-century shipboard-inspired pop-up. We had a seashanty band, rigging in the tent, napkins made from map fabric (‘mapkins’), maps as menus, vintage globes and costumes created especially for the crew. Bawdy singing and rum were the order of the day.

I have to admit, cooking in a field is a challenge. For a start, at festivals, none of the staff want to work much. They want to be out there, having fun with everyone else. Oh, I give long, stern lectures beforehand about how they are getting paid and they must be professional. This lecture never works. Luckily, this is a simple soup to make, so I managed to serve it to 800 people without TOO much sweat.


Quantity Ingredient
50-75ml vegetable or palm oil
1 red onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, very finely chopped
1 red chilli, deseeded and very finely chopped
5 cm piece ginger, peeled and very finely chopped
1 teaspoon toasted coriander seeds, freshly ground
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
pinch saffron strands
2 sticks lemongrass, very thinly sliced
1 red pepper, deseeded and cut into strips
1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into 4–5 cm cubes
2 x 400 ml tins coconut milk
1 lime, juiced, plus extra to serve
100g spinach
sea salt
coriander leaves, to serve
Coconut, lime & chilli sambal, to garnish


  1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat, add the onion and cook until softened, then add the garlic, chilli, ginger, ground coriander, turmeric, saffron, lemongrass and 1 tablespoon sea salt. Stir well, then add the red pepper and sweet potato and fry until lightly golden around the edges.
  2. Add the coconut milk and lime juice and simmer for 10–15 minutes, adding the spinach just before the end; it will wilt in the heat of the soup. Season to taste with salt.
  3. Ladle into bowls, add more lime juice and the coriander and serve with the sambal below.
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