Each year Haitian households celebrate their country’s independence on January 1st, the anniversary of Haiti’s Liberation from France, with a traditional soup called soup joumou.
During France’s rule of Haiti, the soup was considered a delicacy and forbidden to the slaves. Since Independence in 1804, Haitians have enjoyed this comforting soup as a historical tribute to Haitian Independence Day, and to celebrate the world’s first and only successful slave resolution that resulted in an independent nation.
As a child I remember my mother, a Haitian woman, making this soup every New Year’s Day. She would invite friends over to celebrate the holiday and anniversary with a bowl of soup and bread, or she often took a large bowl of soup joumou over to friend’s homes to share.
This savory soup is really an energetic combination of a lot of things, mostly vegetables. A variety of versions of this soup can be found throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. Ingredients tend to vary from cook to cook, but soup joumou is traditionally a mix of squash, potatoes, carrots and meat. Mine is a vegetarian version. I hope you like it. Best wishes for a Happy New Year!
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, coarsely chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 butternut squash (about 2 pounds), peeled and chopped into chunks
2 cups vegetable broth
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 shallots, chopped fine
4-5 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
1 leek, sliced in half and cut into 1-inch pieces
1-2 Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and diced in 1-inch pieces
3 carrots, peeled and cut in 1-inch pieces
2 stalks of celery, cut in 1-inch pieces
1-2 malanga, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces (optional)
1 turnip, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 scallions, sliced plus more for garnish
1/3 cup parsley, chopped, plus more for garnish
½ head of green cabbage, cored and cut into 1-inch pieces
6-8 cups vegetable broth
1 habanero chile pepper, seeded (optional)
4 sprigs of thyme
4 ounces vermicelli or capellini noodles, broken in halves or thirds
dash of ground cloves
freshly ground pepper
juice of 1 lime, plus wedges to serve
Make the squash puree: in a saucepan over medium heat, heat oil and sauté onions and garlic. Add butternut squash, broth and salt. Bring to a boil. Lower heat, cover and simmer until squash is tender. About 10 minutes. Working in batches, purée squash in blender until smooth. Set aside.
In a large pot, heat oil under medium heat. Add shallots, then garlic and simmer until fragrant. Add leeks, potatoes, carrots, celery, malanga, turnip, scallions, parsley. Add salt and toss. Add cabbage, 6-7 cups vegetable broth, habanero pepper (if using), and thyme. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer until vegetables are softened, about 20 minutes. Add squash purée. Then noodles. Add more broth if necessary. Cook, stirring occasionally until soup thickens slightly, approximately 10 minutes. Remove and discard thyme sprigs and pepper. Season with salt, pepper and lime juice. Ladle in bowls, garnish with parsley and scallions. Serve with lime wedges and bread.
Notes: I’ve listed malanga as an optional ingredient as it may be a challenge for some of you to find. Malanga, is a starchy root vegetable that is similar in texture and appearance to taro and cassava, but has more of a woodsy taste. After it is peeled, it can be boiled and eaten like a potato. When added to soups, it helps thicken the broth. It’s usually found in Latin American grocery stores and in some supermarkets.
Habanero peppers are quite hot so add just a little or none at all if you have difficulties with spicy heat. Because there are people in my household that don’t eat spicy food, I leave out the chile pepper when I make this soup. Instead, I add a splash of habanero hot sauce in the individual bowls of those, like me, who like a dose of spicy. My hot sauce of preference is Marie Sharp’s Habanero Pepper Sauce (I have no affiliation) from Belize. I fell in love with it when I visited Belize years ago. The ingredients in the sauce include habanero peppers, carrots and lime juice so the sauce goes very well with this soup.