Fillet of Soul: Afro Vegan is Wheeler del Torro's (of Vegan Scoop fame) newest book. Note that I say book, and not cookbook. Because this is more than a cookbook. Yes, there are recipes, and I will get to those in a minute, but this book is more of a personal look into the experiences del Torro has had with food as he has traveled around the world.
From what I gather, AfroVegan is the first in the Fillet of Soul series in which Wheeler will share recipes and inspirations from his travels to over sixty different countries. In this edition, he focuses in on the time he spent as a chef in France and his explorations of Senegal, Ethiopia, the Caribbean, and the American South.
The book is divided into 2 parts, Part 1: Paris which covers French, Jamaican, and Southern cuisines. Part 2: African Inspiration shares menus and recipes from Senegal and Ethiopia. As Wheeler introduces each country of origin, he not only provides the recipes, but he also provides a sneak peak into the culture surrounding the foods and the impact that it has had on him and his creative endeavors in the kitchen.
The recipe I chose to make for this review is the Peanut Soup. I chose it because it is inspired by a cuisine that I am not at all familiar with, Senegalese. I will admit that I was a bit skeptical of this soup upon glancing at the ingredients list. I mean, it calls for 2 whole cups of peanut butter. But as you will taste upon your first spoonful, this rich, hearty, savory soup is warming to the spirit as well as the belly.
The velvety smooth texture makes this soup not only wonderful on it's own, but also as a great addition to a bowl meal. I'm thinking chopped Fieldroast sausage, potatoes, brown rice, carrots and green beans would be so good swimming around in this soup. I found it a little spicy as written (I like spicy so it was perfect for me) so if you are sensitive, keep an eye on that cayenne pepper. I suppose it also depends on how spicy your curry powder is.
The author has given permission for me to share this recipe with you. It's the Peanut Soup from the Senegalese chapter, which appears on page 55. The peanut flavor of this soup is balanced by warm spices and the earthy sweetness of sweet potatoes.
2 tablespoons peanut oil
2 tablespoons curry powder
2 white onions, thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
2 cups smooth peanut butter
2 large sweet potatoes, roasted, cubed and peeled
2 quarts vegetable broth
10 ounces unsweetened coconut milk
Salt and ground black pepper to suit your taste
Heat peanut oil over medium-high heat and add the curry powder. Toast, stirring constantly for 2 minutes.
Add the onions and cook until soft, about 3 minutes.
Add cayenne and peanut butter. Stir well to combine.
Add the sweet potatoes, vegetable stock and coconut milk.
Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Remove from the heat and puree.
Add salt and pepper to suit your taste.
This is a beautifully written, designed, and laid out cookbook. It is packed with full color photographs not only of the food, but of the places and people that inspired del Torro to write the recipes. The recipes are simple and effective. They are not fussy and the ingredient lists are short and filled with easy to find ingredients. The only drawbacks I have found is that the ingredients are not always listed in the order in which they are used in the recipe, and metric equivalents are not included in the recipes (though there is a metric conversion chart in the back of the book.) It is a great addition to any cook's shelf, and is an inspiring read. There are not a huge amount of recipes included in this short volume, however the point is not to overwhelm with quantity and to simply focus on a few traditional recipes from different regions and represent them well, and in that respect this book is a sure success. I am looking forward to reading all of the volumes in this series, as it gives me a chance to travel the world without ever leaving my kitchen.
Lucky for you, the Wheeler is ofering up a copy of his book to one lucky reader. Just follow the prompts in the widget below to enter. Sorry, this giveaway is open to US readers only.
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I was provided with a review copy of the book free of charge, however my opinions and review are my own.