Warm avocado and biltong soup

by Jeanne on January 5, 2005

in Recipes - gluten-free, Recipes - South African, Recipes - vegetarian, Soup

AvocadoBiltongSoup

 

Well, as you have probably by now gathered, I'm back from my glorious three weeks under the African sun, tanned, happy and a bit chubbier than when I left!! ;-)  I had such a glorious time – saw tons of people, relaxed by the sea rather a lot, ate some wonderful meals, spent time with my family… So in other words, I have a lot of catching up to do!

I do, however, want to get my posts about our trip to France up before I do the South African trip – they are mostly written but need editing – and I still have a few posts from the vaults that need to be put up, of which this is one.  Oh, and for those of you who are interested, I have put up my Oktoberfest photo album – check it out in the sidebar.

Since Anthony over at Spiceblog has started an avocado theme I thought this might be an appropriate time for the following recipe.  As I mentioned in a previous post, I recently made a South African lunch menu for friends and the starter consisted of avocado and biltong soup.  Having grown up in South Africa, I have never regarded the avocado pear as a great delicacy – I mean, in season you can buy bags containing ten (admittedly not enormous) avocados by the roadside for R10 (less than £!!).  I remember my father scooping the flesh loose from the skin and then mashing the flesh together with salt and pepper to spread on his toast – what a treat that was, but not exactly gourmet fare.  However, since landing here in London, I have become accustomed to the silly prices charged for avocados here and as a result we eat them only as a treat.  The same goes for biltong – in South Africa it is cheap and plentiful, but here it is a delicacy available only from speciality shops.  So avocado and biltong seemed a suitably exotic dish to make for our guests.

Avos

The avocado  gets its name from the Latin American Nahuatl ahuacatl  meaning "testicle," referring to its shape. (This suggestive shape is possibly also the reason why the Aztecs used avocados as a sexual stimulant…) It was discovered in Mexico in approximately 291 B.C. from where the Spanish brought it to Europe. The more easily-pronouced "avocado" is attributed to Sir Henry Sloane in 1669 – the word itself first appeared in print in the 17th century.  Avocados did not become a commercial crop until the early 1900s and today they are grown in many tropical regions, the largest producers being Mexico, USA, Dominican Republic, Brazil, Indonesia, Israel, South Africa (!) and Spain. A single mature avocado tree can produce more than 400 pieces of fruit in a year! 

I have often seen recipes for chilled avocado soup, but I must admit that the idea of chilled soup has never appealed to me.  I mean, soup is associated (in my mind, anyway) with chilly winter evenings and I don't imagine chilled soup will bring you much pleasure there! (I suspect that the idea behind chilled avocado soup is the fact that avocado becomes bitter if you boil it, so by serving it chilled you avoid this problem.)  Anyway, as a result of my dislike for cold soups I never really bothered with avocado soup until my good friend Peter made me dinner one night and served up a warm avocado soup – I was instantly hooked.  It fulfilled all my criteria for a great recipe:

1.  It's easy.

2.  It features a raw ingredient I really, really like.

3.  It's easy.

4.  It's something a bit out of the ordinary.

5.  It's easy.

I admit that Peter's original recipe does not include the biltong, but biltong and avocado have a long tradition of being served together in South African cuisine (biltong and avo salad; steak with biltong and avo topping etc etc).  And besides, having had a soup amuse bouche topped with little lardons while in France, I thought it would certainly add a dash of the exotic for the benefit of our friends…  The soup turned out to be absolutely delicious – even better than I remember.  It was creamy to the point where I was tempted to describe it as an "avocado veloute", but then I took a step back from the abyss of pretentiousness and stuck with plain old soup ;-)

PETER'S WARM AVOCADO SOUP WITH BILTONG (serves 4-6)

Ingredients:

2 large, ripe avocado pears, mashed
1T butter or margerine
1T flour
2 cups chicken stock
2 cups milk
A dash of Tabasco sauce (optional)
Diced biltong and chopped parsley to serve

Method:

Peel, stone and mash the avocados, adding a little lemon juice to stop them from going brown. 

Melt the butter in a large saucepan and when it is melted, stir in the flour to make a paste.  Add the chicken stock bit by bit, stirring to prevent the paste from forming lumps.  After the chicken stock, add the milk and stir.  When the milk has been heated a bit, add the mashed avocado and stir well.  Season to taste with salt, pepper and Tabasco.  Do not let the avocado boil as this will make it taste bitter!  At this stage, I also give the soup a quick whirl with my beloved Braun hand mixer to get it really smooth and creamy. 

Dice some biltong (about a tablespoon per serving of soup) into small blocks, chop some fresh parsley and sprinkle on each bowl of soup before serving. 

NOTES:

If you add lemon juice to the avocado, go easy on it – you don't want its taste to  interfere with the soup.  You can substitute vegetable stock for chicken stock if you are cooking for vegetarians.  The Tabasco can also be replaced with a couple of chilli flakes, but both are entirely optional.  If you can't find biltong, you could also use crispy bacon bits for a similar effect.  The most crucial thing is NOT to let the avocado boil!

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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Reid January 6, 2005 at 7:27 am

Hi Jeanne,
The soup looks great! I like avocados and have never had them served as a soup before. This sounds interesting so I’m hoping to try it sometime. By the way, since the biltong is air dried meat, would you say it’s similar to beef jerky, which I believe is dehydrated? In Hawaii we have something similar. It’s called pipikaula. Strips of beef are seasoned with salt and then “hung” out to dry for 1-2 days.

Reply

Jeanne January 6, 2005 at 11:14 am

Hi Reid
Yup, beef jerky or pipikaula both sound as if they would work perfectly – it just adds that bit of salty, spicy oomph to the soup. And if you like avocados, you will *love* this soup – it’s one of my favourites!

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Ronni Bennett January 7, 2005 at 12:56 pm

Gonna go buy some avocados today for this soup. Can’t say that I’ve EVER seen biltong here in the U.S., at least by that name. Perhaps what we call “jerky” is the nearly the same.
Years ago, when I lived in California, I once had avocados growing in the back yard. What a pleasure it was for this extremely urban woman to just go pick one off for lunch or dinner.

Reply

Jeanne January 7, 2005 at 1:06 pm

Hi Ronni
Wow – avocados in the back yard, fresh off the tree. Now that’s my idea of living off the land! I have an avocado plant here in London, grown from an avocado stone, but it is too cold for them outdoors in the UK and apparently they don’t fruit if grown indoors :-( So I guess I’ll have to make do with the expensive offerings from abroad. When we move back to South Africa the first two things I will plant will be a fig tree and an avocado tree – mark my words!
Enjoy the soup!

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Anel Quilliam January 8, 2005 at 10:14 am

It is my husband’s birthday today and we have invited our English neighbours for a South Afican evening! Your soup sounds like the perfect starter.

Reply

Jeanne January 12, 2005 at 10:22 am

Hi Anel
Glad you stopped by! The soup makes a great “exotic” starter over here in the UK so your neighbours shoudl be suitably impressed. Let us know how your husband’s birthday dinner went!

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Max July 21, 2007 at 3:14 pm

Can any of you lads send me the photo of the soup? I wonder how you make it! )

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Anon June 12, 2009 at 11:41 am

http://www.thesavanna.co.uk/recipes/soups.aspx#1
Hey it the same recipe copied exactly the same and they say its theirs…odd?

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Johan Kohler April 11, 2010 at 6:57 pm

So… I discovered warm avocado soup by myself (didn’t think anyone has ever tried it). My soup consisted of butternut, leftover red kidney beans (from a can), and about 1/2 avocado (leftovers that had gone brown), a bit of chicken stock, fresh basil, some leftover coconut milk and some Robertsons “Mixed spice” (cinnamon, cloves, pimento, nutmeg). I boiled the butternut, mashed it up with everthing else (and most of the cooking water too). BUT, I didn’t know you’re not supposed to boil the avo, so it did taste bitter in the end :-(

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