Vegan Curried Sweet Potato & Cauliflower Potage


Vegan Curried Sweet Potato and Cauliflower Soup
This soup makes me happy. I’ve been making it for what seems like eons, and I don’t know what took me so long to share it. It’s the kind of food you’ll feel good about. If you are on the path to better eating, this is a good place to start.

It’s hot and sweet, spicy and nutritious. It’s a kind soup. It’s easy on you. On your health, your time, your wallet, your soul. Yes, this is definitely a soul food in my book. Oh and hey, it’s easy on the environment too. So give it a shot and let me know what you think.

*A note on curry:
The curry powder you will use matters. Choose a good quality type; one that’s not too hot nor too mild. I’ve used a Fijian curry powder I brought back from trip and recently, the McCormick Medium Curry Powder, which you can find in any supermarket in the Montreal region.

Vegan Curried Sweet Potato & Cauliflower Potage

1 tbsp virgin organic coconut oil
Veggies and broth:
4 garlic cloves, crushed
1 onion, chopped
4 cups chopped sweet potato
3 cups chopped cauliflower
6 cups organic vegetable broth
1 ½ tsp of good quality curry powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp each of salt and black pepper
Maple syrup
Hemp seeds

In a large stainless steel pot, heat the coconut oil on medium high heat. Throw in the onions and crushed garlic and cook until nicely golden brown and softened. I cook mine at a relatively high heat to get that caramelized taste.

Next, add all your spices, cauliflower, sweet potato and broth. Bring this to a boil. Then lower the heat, put the cover on and let it simmer about 25 minutes, or until the sweet potatoes are tender.

Once the potage is cooked, grab your food processor and purée it in a few batches until silky smooth (You can purée it this soup with a hand mixer, but it will be lumpy). Return to the pot, stir all the potage, and season again, if needed. You can also add a little more broth here if you find it too thick. But take care not to add too much, or it will dilute the taste.

Finally, ladle into bowls, top with fresh cilantro, hemp seeds, and oh so crucial for that final sweet note: a drizzle of maple syrup. Santé à vous, my friends.


Foodie Nostalgia: Memories of Addis


Addis Ababa, 6 a.m. Walking out of the International Bole Airport, the chilly mountain air tickles the nose and pricks the skin. This is Africa, why is it so cold here? Sitting at 7546 feet in altitude, Addis Ababa is the highest capital in Africa and the fifth highest in the world. It is also home to unique ingredients and spices.

Bole Road Addis Ababa

Addis: Journey into the Exotic

Hop in a blue Lada taxi with seats covered in purple synthetic fur. Get on the newly finished Bole Road and prepare for a culture shock. Addis, as locals call their beloved capital, brings together all the elements of what makes Ethiopia a unique country.

Lada car with purple fur and bananas

Hints of every era, every faith and every past struggle permeates the city. Coptic priests in ancient white dresses mingle with hurried businessmen and students dressed in the latest fashion. At every turn it seems, there are symbols of the country’s ancient history and the present economic boom. But one thing is sure to never change in Addis: delicious coffee and exotic food.

The Home of Coffee
If Ethiopia is believed to be the Cradle of Mankind, it is also the birthplace of coffee. Discovered in the mountainous province of Kaffa, Arabica coffee beans get their mild aroma from the highland climate. And here in Addis, you get your cuppa from the source.

Excellent coffee can be found in every restaurant and coffee shop in the city, but for some of the best brew in town, head to Tomoca. Inside the small coffee-house, patrons mostly ask for a macchiato. It’s a favorite among locals and a remnant of the Italian influence.

Tomoca Coffee House in Addis Ababa
The Coffee Ceremony
While Japan has its tea ceremony, Ethiopia has its coffee ceremony. In every home, the woman of the house has mastered the art of roasting the beans, grinding them and brewing the coffee in front of visitors, friends and family up to three times a day. The smoke of the roasting coffee is fanned around for the pleasure of guests and fresh coffee is enjoyed in tiny cups often with a branch of rue (a herb similar to hops). Popcorn sprinkled with sugar typically accompanies the aromatic brew. A fundamental part of Ethiopian culture, the coffee ceremony is an event not to be missed. You can also experience the coffee ceremony in most restaurants in Addis Ababa.

Japan has its tea ceremony.
Ethiopia has its coffee ceremony.

Coffee Ceremony in Ethiopia

A Traditional Ethiopian Meal
Head to the old Ghion Hotel for a culinary experience in pure habesha fashion. Once a glorious hotel, its commodities do not live up to most travellers’ expections today, but its restaurant still serves fantastic traditional food and great dinnertime entertainment.

A waitress in traditional Ethiopian dress brings a large silver bowl of water and everyone takes a turn at washing their hands. As food is shared in a single plate and eaten without utensils, this is mandatory step!

Made of hot peppers dried in the sun, which are ground with as much as 20 different spices, each household has its secret berbere recipe.

The feast then begins. A large platter is placed on the messob, a traditional small woven table. Such as a painting, colorful mounds of varied stews and salads are laid out in front of us. Scoop up the savory morsels with a piece of injera and prepare for an instant flavor overload. Slow-cooked wot – a spicy stew made of different meats or legumes – fresh tomato and lentil salad, vegetable stews and stir-fried beef are devoured in no time. It’s decadent, and with Ethiopian music in the background and entertainers dancing the eskita, the evening is a complete sensory and exotic experience.

Ethiopian meat with injera

The ever-present flat bread called injera is made of teff, an endemic plant, which is also the smallest grain in the world

Shop at Merkato
In Addis, a visit to the Merkato is a must. The largest open-air market in all of Africa, anything and everything can be found there. As our guide Brook says, you can even buy a soul here. Mounds of spices, rows of trinkets and decorations, dried skins of unknown animals, tires, fresh produce, souvenirs – the display is endless and eclectic.

Merkato Addis Ababa

At the Merkato, you can even buy a soul.

Addis Ababa is a city full of history, a unique place where somehow, one can travel in the past while witnessing the future taking shape. Still, some things here will never change. Like the promise of a good coffee and unforgettable flavors.

Good Spots
For a day in Addis Ababa, check out these spots. Some do not have a Website, so I’ve provided links to Tripadvisor:

Top View Restaurant (for the view overlooking the city), Megenaga, Addis Ababa

Tomoca (for the best coffee) Wavel St, Piazza, Addis Ababa

Yod Abyssinia (for some of the very best Ethiopian cuisine) Bole Medhaniyalem Area, Addis Ababa

Cupcake Delights Bakery (fun spot for desserts)
Bole, opposite to Beer Garden Inn, Addis Ababa

Ghion Hotel (this is an old hotel and run down, by many standards. However, its restaurant serves excellent Ethiopian cuisine and hosts beautiful traditional dinner shows, and its gardens are famously beautiful)
Bole area, Addis Ababa

Merkato (for a visit in the biggest open-air market of Africa; this is not to be missed!)


A lifestyle blog with an Ethiopian spin on design, food and everything in between


Hey, thanks so much for taking the time to check out what House North of Addis is all about! My name is Astere Justine Haile and I’m a mama to four boys, as well as a crazy lady who decided to launch a lifestyle blog and a line of ethically-made homewares pillow covers out of Ethiopian textiles, all during my fourth mat leave. If you, like me, have been looking for a fresh twist on food and design, then this Ethiopian-infused lifestyle blog will keep you coming back.

Ethiopian blankets

What started it all
I grew up in Montreal to a French-Canadian mother and an Ethiopian father, and ever since I visited Ethiopia in 2012, I’ve been dreaming of showing the world the beauty of its culture, its culinary heritage and its amazing textiles. I also dreamed of enhancing the lives of the many artisans who keep ancestral weaving traditions alive. I wasn’t sure just how to do that until I started sewing pillow covers out of ‘gabis’, those traditional handmade cotton blankets used to keep us warm in high mountain altitudes. By partnering with people who care about artisans and deal with them in a fair trade and ethical fashion, I’m hoping to bring a bit of Ethiopian beauty into homes while supporting traditional weavers.

Weaver in Dorze village

A little bit about me
As for my life these days, well there is never a dull moment around here! I have a husband who grows palm trees in harsh Canadian weather and happens to be the love of my life. Together, we have four beautiful sons, two Great Danes and a home we have been renovating, for like ever. My life is always busy, sometimes crazy, and that’s the way I like it!

Lalibela trenches

I am a trained journalist, though these past years, I have been working full-time as a copywriter, while taking on occasional magazine writing assignments, as well as translation contracts. I’m also somewhat of an artist and a lover of good design. Many years spent in experimenting with various art forms, having worked six years as a fashion developer and having grown up in a multicultural family have all shaped my personal aesthetic into an eclectic sense of style. I continue to experiment and evolve with every new discovery.

And when I’m not sewing, painting, writing or spending time with my family, you can be sure to find me in the kitchen.

So, are there any lifestyle topics surrounding you’d like to read about over at House North of Addis? Whether it is fashion, food, travel or design-related, I’d love to know!