“Kindred spirits are not so scarce as I used to think. It’s splendid to find out there are so many of them in the world,” Anne Shirley, Anne of Green Gables
As busy as life is, I try to have friends over for dinner once a week. It makes the house feel like a home, I get to catch up with and cook for people I care about and it ensures a thorough tidy up of all the toys, photography props, books, magazines and clothes that would otherwise be scattered randomly throughout the place.
Last Friday I had three friends and their kids over for dinner. One of my friends is going through a rough patch at the moment and as we commiserated and encouraged her I was reminded of how much I love my friends and how important it is to have people around you during the tough times. Because when things go badly pear-shaped as they sometimes do, the only people we can often stand to be around are those within our trusted inner-circle; I have lots of friends that I can have a good time with, but there are only a handful of people I can have a bad time with.
So how do I define a good friend? It’s not by how long I’ve known someone — although I’ve known my oldest friend since we were babies — and it’s not by how often we are in contact. I have good friends living interstate or half away around the world and yet when we chat it’s always the same because the connection between us is so strong. For me, it’s mostly about trust and openness: if I can feel like I can tell that person anything and he or she also confides in me without hesitation than I know I’m fortunate to have a good friend.
Ultimately, good friends are people you can laugh and cry with.
Things Good Friends Do
Listen when you need to blow off steam.
Pick up your kids when you are running late. And not judge you.
Tell you the stuff you don’t want to hear when you need it.
Cook for you, or at least, help prep the food when you’re cooking.
Make you feel good about yourself.
Tell you sternly to back away from the phone when you ask, “can I really not contact him?”
When you sheepishly admit you contacted him anyway, confess that he or she would have done the same.
Cheer you on.
Love you, flaws and all.
Tease you without mercy.
Forgive you when you’re being an asshole.
Sweet potato and corn soup
I have a food memory. I couldn’t tell you all the names of the people I went to high school with but I can remember the taste, sight and texture of dishes I’ve eaten decades ago. This recipe is a case in point as it’s inspired by a sweet potato and sweetcorn soup I ate one memorable evening in 1996 at Ruby’s, a long-closed Rundle Street restaurant that would probably be described as ‘hipster’ today. I’d never seen sweet potato and corn in a soup before and was struck by how good it was.
The dinner at Ruby’s marked the beginning of a perfect evening. After dinner, my friend Barbara and I went to watch the British dance theatre troupe DV8 perform at the Adelaide Festival Centre as part of the Adelaide Festival of Arts. After a mesmerising performance, I then met up with my friend Kerina to watch British indie band, Elastica, play an incredible set at the Tivoli Hotel.
It was three amazing experiences in one night and it all started with soup.
- 1.5 kgs sweet potatoes. Try to choose ones approximately the same size.
- 1.5 litres (6 cups) water
- 4 ears corn
- 250 mls coconut cream
- 1 cup water
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 litre (4 cups) water
- 1 teaspoon minced ginger or 1 inch piece fresh ginger, grated
- 1 teaspoon lemongrass or 1 fresh lemongrass stalk, white part only
- 1-2 Birds Eye chillies
- Fresh coriander and/or basil leaves
- 2 limes
- Heat oven to 180 degrees Celsius — if I’m roasting sweet potatoes in their skins I don’t bother pre-heating the oven– and line a baking tray with tinfoil. Arrange whole sweet potatoes on top and roast for 45 minutes or until done (the time depends on the size of your potatoes). Check if potatoes are ready by inserting a skewer – it should slide through the flesh easily. If they’re still hard leave them in the oven for another 10 minutes and try again.
- In a large pot, bring one litre of water the boil and then place corn inside. Boil for about eight minutes.
- While the corn is cooking, place coconut cream, 1 cup water and 1 teaspoon salt in a container that will snugly fit all four corn side by side.
- Place corn inside and turn a few times so that the corn soaks up the coconut mixture. Remove corn from coconut and then grill under a hot grill, on a barbecue or on a hot grill pan. Once done, remove to a plate to cool slightly and then use a sharp knife to slice the corn ears into thick slices or to slice the kernels off completely.
- When sweet potatoes are ready, leave to cool for 10 minutes and then peel off the skin. Place the flesh inside a large pot pot along with 1 litre water, the rest of the coconut mixture, the ginger, lemongrass and chilli.
- Blend soup with a stick blender, taste and season with salt and pepper.
- Ladle soup into bowls and then garnish with corn, coriander and/or basil leaves and lime wedges.
- This way of preparing the soup isn’t super-quick; it would be far easier just to boil diced sweet potato in water until it was soft, blend it up and then add the shaved corn kernels in the last five minutes. And you can totally do it that way, if you’re pressed for time, in which case you should ignore all the grilling instructions and add the coconut cream directly to the soup. But I love the gorgeous, caramelised taste of sweet potatoes roasted in their skins and the smoky flavour of grilled corn so I’ve done it this, more complicated way. Besides, sometimes cooking, like friendship, shouldn’t be rushed; sometimes it’s far better to let things unfold naturally at a leisurely pace.
- Dairy-free and gluten-free.
- Serve it with toasted sandwiches, fresh bread, or flavoured polenta or quinoa for a hearty and filling meal.
More Vegetarian Recipes
- Red Lentil Dahl for a rainy day
- Roasted Cauliflower and chickpea salad with saffron yoghurt dressing
- Eye of the Tiger Dip
- Cherry Tomato, Mozzarella and Basil Pizza
- Two Spring Salads
- Hummus with Toasted Garlic Chilli Flat Bread
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