Haitian Soup Joumou (vegan)

This Christmas we are serving Haitian Soup Joumou, a family favorite, with dinner.

Soup Joumou is the traditional soup of New Year’s Day in Haiti.  This special soup announces the new year with color and spice and offers some gustatory cheer in celebration of Haitian Independence day. January 1st, 1804 was the day that Haiti became the world’s first independent black republic by defeating the French.

The story goes that soup was something only the French ate. So after the Haitians defeated the French, the offered a symbolic middle finger to the French by celebrating over soup.

Soup Joumou is usually made with stewing beef.  In our home, we cannot wait for New Year’s Day to partake of this specialty, though we do make it for New Year’s Day as well, and we often make it vegetarian style.  I will set a bowl of stewed beef on the table for those who desire meat, but it really doesn’t need it.  This soup is just a little burst of Caribbean sunshine, a much needed flavor when your parents have ripped you out of the warm Caribbean and plopped you down in the coldest, flattest place on earth.  Cruel.  Just ask my two eldest children, both Haitian, both perpetually cold.  Here kids…have some soup.

In this version, I have left out both meat and potatoes (potatoes to make it a little less heavy).  I have added shredded carrots for a little texture and, because it is so darn cold here in Chicago, I make it thicker than it would be in Haiti. You can reduce the amount of pumpkin if you’d like in thinner. I also give two options for spices just in case you’d prefer not to experience too much Haitian heat (Haiti is, after all, the country that adds cayenne pepper to it peanut butter).

Vegan Soup Joumou
serves 10
2 onions, chopped
2 T. olive oil
4 stalks celery, chopped
2 large carrots, shredded
4-8 cloves garlic, minced
1 large can crushed tomatoes
4 c. mashed pumpkin
4 c. vegetarian broth
2 c. water
1 t. sage
1 t. thyme
1 t. parsley
1 whole scotch bonnet pepper or, for the more reserved, a few shakes of cayenne pepper
a couple shakes of cinnamon
the juice of 2 limes
1 c. cashews and enough water to cover or a 14 oz. can full-fat coconut milk

Walk to the well to get some water, which you will carry home on your head.  Start the fire around 3:00 in the afternoon so you will be ready to eat by 10:00 or 11:00 in the evening.  Once you’ve got your fire to a medium heat, add the oil to your soup pot.  Saute the onions and celery until the onions are translucent.  Add the garlic and saute another minute or so.  Add all the other ingredients EXCEPT the cashews, water for cashews (or coconut milk), and limes.  Either include the scotch bonnet pepper OR the cayenne pepper.  If you use the scotch bonnet pepper, omit the cinnamon and just let the SBP float on top of your soup.  You will remove it before adding the cashew cream (or coconut milk) .  If you add the cayenne pepper, add to your liking and then add a little cinnamon too.  Bring to a boil and let simmer about 20 minutes.  Meanwhile, and this is where the Haitian scenario breaks down, put the cashews in a blender.   Cover with water and blend until creamy (or open the coconut milk).  Add this mixture to the soup, stir, and simmer about 10 more minutes (if you used the scotch bonnet pepper, remember to remove it before adding the cream).  Just before serving, stir in the lime juice.

As is true with most soups, soup joumou is even better the second day.