Just like that, we’re into October.
October is one of my favourite months. Canadian Thanksgiving is in a couple of weeks, so this is the month of pumpkin pie, stuffing, and gravy (vegan, natch) for me. It may be the month I feel the most homesick as an expat as I’m missing family dinners and the October energy that’s so vibrant in the air.
I didn’t have a gentle September this year, quite the opposite in fact, so I’m especially glad for the month to be behind me. Bring on the squash! Bring on the bulky sweaters! Bring on the boots and tights! Bring on the soups!
Now that the seasons have turned, we’re back in the habit of making soups for dinner on Sundays. It’s the perfect Sunday meal in my opinion: a bit lighter after a weekend typically with some indulgence (never mind the garlic bread we usually have along side). Leftover soup reheats brilliantly for meals during the week, and it makes a perfect freezer meal.
This soup is a bit of a project, but it’s well worth the effort. It starts with cubes of butternut squash, diced onion, and smashed cloves of garlic roasting in the oven in a bit of fragrant coconut oil. While the roasting pan is doing the heavy lifting, a flavour base comes together on the stove top, marrying ginger and cilantro with turmeric, smoked paprika, and red pepper flakes. Once the roasting is done the veg gets a whirl in the blender with some vegetable broth and then the most velvety butternut squash puree joins the flavour base with light coconut milk, lime juice, and miso paste. Pow!
The flavours are at once delicate and assertive, with no one overwhelming any other. The miso is in the background, not something you’d necessarily identify upon tasting a spoonful, but rather a layer of umami flavour that makes you go hmm.
This soup is by no means difficult. The worst of it is the dishes you’ll be faced with once finished; a roasting pan, a blender, and a soup pot. But there are shortcuts you can take. The squash can easily be roasted on the weekend and then kept in the fridge for a quick and easy weeknight dinner – all you’d have to do is whip up the flavour base, blend, heat, and serve. You can save yourself a dish to wash by using an immersion blender, through you won’t get the soup quite as velvety smooth as you would with an upright blender.
However you want to approach it, I hope you make it. My husband and I don’t always see eye to eye on how things should be spiced, and inevitably when I make a soup he ends up dumping half the spice cabinet in his bowl. This time he added nothing, not even salt, which I think is the highest praise of all. Seriously folks, make this soup!
Winter squash are rich in carotenoids, a precursor to vitamin A, and are a good source of vitamin C. It is also a very good source of dietary fiber. The seeds, when consumed in moderation, are a great source of healthy oils including linoleic acid (polyunsaturated omega-6 fatty acid) and oleic acid (the same monounsaturated fatty acid found in olive oil).
- FOR THE SQUASH:
- 1 medium butternut squash, about 1kg / 2lbs, peeled and cubed
- 1 large onion, diced
- 4 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
- 1 Tbsp coconut oil
- salt and pepper
- FOR THE SOUP BASE:
- 1 Tbsp cold pressed canola or sesame oil
- 1 - 2 Tbsp peeled and grated ginger
- ½ cup finely chopped cilantro (leaves and stems)
- 1 tsp ground turmeric
- 2 tsp smoked paprika
- ½ tsp red pepper flakes
- 3 cups water or vegetable broth
- 1 can light coconut milk (400ml)
- juice of 1 lime
- 2 Tbsp white miso
- salt and pepper
- TO FINISH:
- toasted sesame oil
- cilantro leaves
- Preheat your oven to 200°C / 400°F.
- START WITH THE SQUASH.
- Cut off the tip and the bottom, then using a vegetable peeler, peel the skin away. Cut the neck from the base, and cut the neck into cubes. Slice the base in half, and scoop out the seeds (you can save these and roast 'em if you like), then cube the base as well.
- Place the cubed butternut squash, diced onion, smashed garlic cloves, and coconut oil into a roasting pan. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and give everything a good toss.
- Place the roasting pan in the oven, and roast for about 30 minutes, until the squash and onions are tender and beginning to turn golden brown.
- SOUP BASE
- You can start on the base while the squash is roasting.
- Heat oil over medium heat in a large heavy-bottomed pot. I love my dutch oven for this.
- Add the ginger, and sauté for about 3 minutes, stirring often so that it doesn't burn.
- Add cilantro, turmeric, smoked paprika, and red pepper flakes, and cook for 3 minutes more. Remove from the heat.
- MAKING THE SOUP
- Once the squash is roasted, remove from the oven and let it cool slightly.
- Scrape the contents of the roasting pan into the jar of a blender or food processor, including any liquid in the pan. You may need to do this in batches depending on the size of your blender.
- Add about half of the water or vegetable broth, and blend on high speed until the mixture is very smooth, adding more liquid if you need to in order to loosen the mixture up.
- Return the pot to the heat, and add the butternut squash puree to the flavour base. Stir well to combine.
- Add the remaining water or broth and the coconut milk.
- Heat the soup to a gentle simmer, just below a boil.
- Now add the lime juice.
- Put the miso paste into a small bowl, and add a few tablespoons of hot soup. Stir into a slurry, then add this back to the soup. It's really important that the soup doesn't boil after you've added the miso, so reduce the heat and watch it carefully.
- Taste the soup and season with sea salt and extra lime juice if you like.
- Serve hot, drizzled with a very small amount of toasted sesame oil and a few cilantro leaves.
If you like, you can also add the flavour base to the blender when pureeing the soup for a totally smooth soup.
Blending the entire soup in the pot with an immersion blender also works well and will leave you with fewer dishes, however, the soup won't be quite as velvety as with an upright blender.
Leftovers can stored in the fridge for about 3 days, or be frozen in individual portions.