Sopa de Mani
(Bolivian Peanut Soup)
This is the favorite soup of Gladys Rojas, who came to America from Bolivia and has made her dreams come true as a massage therapist. I met her at Perfect Endings in my hometown of Falls Church, Virginia; it's Gladys who has worked out all manner of harm I've done myself snowshoeing, skiing, moving furniture, and just plain typing--for which I am eternally grateful. I'm also grateful for this recipe, traditional in Bolivia especially for birthdays and holidays--calling for the finest beef stock as a base. Gladys says she prefers eating to cooking, but she loves to cook this soup because it looks very nice and takes a long time to cook as a family project that all family members enjoy. It's a beauty: creamy and delicate with a kick. The carrots are unbelievably sweet in this dish. Serve it hot to 4 people as a first course to a party meal.
Heat the oil in a large saucepan over low heat and stir in the onion and carrots. Cook slowly until the onions and carrots are soft, about 10 minutes. Stir in the peas and tomato bits (and optional chicken pieces)and let them cook slowly another 10 minutes, stirring from time to time. Pour in the beef stock, the ground raw peanuts, and the potatoes (or rice). Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, partially cover, and cook without stirring for 30 minutes.
Fry the remaining julienne of potatoes in hot peanut oil until crisp, then remove and drain on paper towels.
When ready to serve, season the soup with salt, pepper, and hot pepper sauce to taste. Ladle into bowls and top with the crisp fried potatoes and a sprinkling of minced parsley.