Why hello December. You made extra sure we’re aware of just how not-summer it is right now. While all this darkness and cold may stir up the desire to hibernate, there’s an excellent culinary defense against these doldrums: warm, yummy, comforting soup. Now I’ll fully admit that I’m in no way unbiased towards soup; if left to my own devices I’d probably eat it for the majority of my meals. This is especially true once the temperature starts to drop. The nice thing about the soup featured in this post is that the recipe doesn’t involve a lot in the way of ingredients or time, but still yields a very satisfying meal. It's perfect for one of those freezing cold work nights or if you wanted to introduce something new to your game night crew.
Availability of Ingredients: Semi-Common/Semi-Seasonal
Gadgetry: Highly Recommended
Feeds: 4-8 nerds
Time Till Noms: About 15-30 minutes of preparation and an additional 30 minutes of cooking time
Required Equipment: a cutting board, a large glass bowl, a large cooking pot, a heavy knife or cleaver, a wooden spoon
Optional Equipment: a garlic press, a vegetable peeler, a standard or immersion blender (if not using one of these, then a vegetable masher)
3.5-4.5 pounds (1.59-2.04kg) of Butternut Squash
1 large shallot
4-6 medium-to-large cloves of garlic
1 quart chicken or mild vegetable broth
1 Tablespoon canola oil
1 Tablespoon of honey or agave syrup
1 Tablespoon of curry
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon of cardamom*
½ teaspoon garam marsala*
¼ teaspoon ground ginger*
A pinch of cayenne*
Step 1: Peel the squash then divide it into 1/2” (1.27cm) pieces. You want the pieces to be as small and uniform as possible; the smaller the pieces, the faster the squash will cook!
Step 2: Add the canola oil to your large cooking pot and swirl the pot around until the oil coats as much of the bottom as possible. Place the pot on the stove and turn the burner to a medium-high heat. Remove the skins from both the shallot and the garlic cloves. Dice the shallot (these pieces don’t need to be completely uniform) and add it to the cooking pot. If you’re not using a garlic press, dice the garlic along with the shallot and add them to the pot together. Otherwise, press the garlic into the hot oil after you’ve added the shallot.
Step 3: Sauté the garlic and shallot in the oil for 3-5 minutes until the shallot pieces turn translucent and the garlic becomes a golden brown color. Add the squash. Sauté the squash for 1-2 minutes, turning it frequently with your wooden spoon, just until the majority of it has been coated by the oil and the shallot/garlic has been mixed in.
: Add the broth, the salt, and the spices. Stir until the salt and spices are dissolved. Turn the burner up to a slightly higher heat (just off of high, if possible) and bring everything to a rapid boil. Allow the soup to continue boiling for 12-15 minutes, stirring the contents occasionally.
: After Step 4 the squash should be tender (should squish easily if poked); turn off the burner and remove the pot from the heat source. Add the honey or agave syrup, then stir until it’s well blended with the rest of the soup.
Step 6: If you’re using a vegetable masher, you can use it now to mush the squash into as fine a paste as you can. If you’re using an immersion blender, lower it into the soup and blend until the ingredients are a consistent puree. If you’re using a standard blender, puree the soup in batches until all the liquid has been converted into a puree. While you can certainly eat it as soon as it cools, I’ve found that letting the soup stand for 30-45 minutes allows all the flavors come out. More flavor and less mouth burning!
A pinch of ground nutmeg and/or a dollop of plain greek yogurt are perfect garnishes for this soup. Pair it with naan or just enjoy it on its own. It’s a rich and surprisingly filling soup that will add a dash of color and keep you warm on these chilly nights.
I’m not big on butternut squash. Can I use another vegetable?
You could probably use this same recipe with acorn squash, kabocha, or even pumpkin (or a combination of these!). The key factors are the sweetness of the squash and the dense, fleshy texture. Given that, the recipe won’t work on drier squashes, like yellow or spaghetti squash.
I’m vegan/vegetarian and will be using vegetable broth in this recipe. Is there anything I should look for when buying a broth?
You want as mild a broth as you can find; something where no one flavor would jump out to steal the attention from the squash or compete with the curry. The spices are quite strong, so you just want a good base to tie everything together.
My grocery store doesn’t carry those spices. Will it be ok to omit them?
You really only need salt, honey, and curry to get the base flavor. Everything else is just a nice bonus.
How do I pick out a good butternut squash?
Ah, this can actually be a little tricky. When selecting a squash, you want a thick specimen that feels surprisingly heavy (relative to its size) when you pick it up. The skin should be a uniform tan-peach color and free of blemishes. It should also be very firm to the touch with no squishy spots. Lastly, you want to wait until the squashes have been available for sale for at least 2-3 weeks. The early season squashes that first appear in stores and markets tend to have very pale ‘meat’ that doesn’t have a strong flavor. You’ll need a good, mature squash for this soup.
Peeling and chopping the squash is scary! Do you have any tricks to make this less perilous for my fingers?
One thing I try to avoid is peeling the squash with a knife. While a knife will get the job done, a peeler will make things go more quickly and spare your digits. As for the actual chopping part (which I find to be scarier), I divide the entire squash lengthwise before cutting anything else so no part of it rolls away. After that, it’s a matter of having a rag or paper towels available to keep my hands dry during the chopping. The best defense against cut fingers is, ironically, a very heavy and sharp knife.
Best of luck with your kitchen experimentations and stay warm!