A couple of weeks ago several student members of Slow Food Bloomington got together to work on chartering an IU chapter of Slow Food on Campus. As the faculty sponsor, I got to tag along, which was a good thing because they met over a terrific potluck supper at one of the student's apartments. Among the treats on offer (with almost everything made from local ingredients) were samosas, hummus, red beans and rice, roast beef, and one of the best soups I've had in memory! I was so hooked on Sarah Almuhairi's Curried Butternut Squash Soup that I begged for the recipe and permission to share. Both were granted. I made the soup for dinner last night, and am finishing it off, cold, with a splash of cider vinegar, for breakfast this morning, even as I type this. It's a complex and mysterious combination of sweet, tart and spice, and it's just fabulous.
A couple of thoughts about this soup. First, it calls for grains of paradise, a peppery/cardamommy spice that I had never used before (and in fact had only heard of in the last month or so.) I liked it so well I left the grains in the pepper mill with my regular peppercorns for a nice twist of spice. It's worth getting if you don't have any. Second, Sarah suggests heat-lovers add some chipotles in adobo to the soup. I am and I did and it was great, but I think it might have overwhelmed the intricate and delicious play of apple and squash with the curry flavors. Another time, I'll ratchet it back. And finally, it was the perfect soup to make with the contents of this week's CSA box, full of butternut squash and apples. And there is enough left over that I can make this soup again for Thanksgiving. My taste buds will be singing all week long!
Enough of me -- here's Sarah's recipe.
Curried Butternut Squash Soup
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 medium butternut squash (3-4 lbs), peeled, seeded, and cut into ½ inch cubes
3-4 tart baking apples, such as winesap, Granny Smith, or Jonathan, peeled, cored, and cut into ½ inch cubes
1 large onion, peeled, halved, and finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1 tablespoon garam masala
½ teaspoon ground grains of paradise
about 4 cups rich chicken or vegetable stock
Apple cider vinegar (1 tsp – 1 tbsp)
Salt and fresh ground pepper
Lemon juice (optional – depends on how tart your apples are)
Heat oil and butter in a large soup pot over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add onions and a pinch of salt and cook until soft, translucent and starting to take on color (about 10 minutes). Add garlic and chopped herbs and sauté for 2 minutes. Add apples, squash, garam masala, and grains of paradise, and stir to combine. Cover with stock, bring to a boil, and then reduce heat to a rapid simmer. Cook for 30-45 minutes, or until squash and apples are meltingly soft.
Remove soup from heat. Using an immersion blender, blend soup to a smooth puree. Alternatively, you could transfer soup to a food processor or blender in batches. Before serving, add cider vinegar and, if using, lemon juice. Taste and adjust seasonings to your liking (depending on what stock you use, you might need to add up to a teaspoon of salt).
One of my favorite garnishes for this soup is a dollop of strained Greek-style yoghurt mixed with shredded cucumber, topped with copious amounts of fresh ground pepper. However, sour cream and chopped parsley would also be good, as would any kind of homemade crouton or crostini.
There are as many garam masala recipes as there are North Indian cooks. The garam masala I use is the prepackaged, preground blend from Sahara Mart and is a little bit spicy. I am a spice fiend, and if I'm just making this for myself and the boyfriend will also add ½ tsp of either canned chipotle pepper in adobo sauce or dried ground chipotle chili powder. It gives a really nice smoky bite to the soup (if you like your soup to bite back!)