Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Butternut Masala Soup

Spicy, creamy butternut soup

There is something about a creamy thick soup that satisfies the soul.  Where a chunky soup with broth always makes me feel like I’m having mostly water for dinner, a creamy thick puré feels very filling, as though I’m getting triple the amount of food I deserve.

This butternut squash vegetable soup is fairly quick and simple to prepare.  Preparation starts early, but there’s large tracts of time you’ll have to yourself.  It takes about two and a half hours, and makes a big pot.

butternut squash
Cut it to cool faster, then cut into smaller pieces to peel,
1 butternut squash

1 tablespoon canola oil
1 tablespoon ghee
1 cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon cumin seed
½ teaspoon fennel seed
¼ teaspoon fine fenugreek seed
20 grates fresh pepper
1 red onion, diced
2 inches ginger, cut into sticks
2 Thai chilies (or to taste)
2 carrots, sliced into rounds
4 cloves garlic
1 zucchini, sliced into rounds
1 teaspoon liquefied tamarind
2 litres cold water
1 teaspoon salt (to taste)
2 tablespoons heavy cream (optional)
plain yogurt to garnish with maybe a sprinkle of nigella seed 

Peeling a butternut squash is easier than other squashes, but challenging, nevertheless.  I avoided the challenge by stabbing it with a knife, over and over, and microwaving it for ten minutes.  I cut it into pieces, and let it cool for about thirty minutes.

In the interim, prepare the other ingredients, and put the oil and ghee on medium high heat.  Drop the cinnamon, cumin, fennel, and fenugreek seed  into the oil and grate the pepper over that.  Add the onion and ginger.  Reduce heat to medium, and cook and stir occasionally till the onion is soft and golden in spots.  

Within ten minutes, the stock was golden brown!
Add the carrot slices and let them sizzle with the onion.  Take your time, as the carrots want to caramelize as much as possible.  I used both a spoon and a knife to remove the squash from the peel.  As it was cooked, it didn’t take a lot of energy.  Add the whole garlic cloves and squash in pieces. 

Stir occasionally so that the garlic and squash get some golden edges too.  Leaving the garlic whole prevents it from burning, and since you’ll be using a blender eventually, sizes don’t matter too much as far as the squash pieces go.  Finally, add the zucchini.  It won’t caramelise, so add the water and salt at this point.  (If you normally keep prepared tamarind in the freezer, this will come in handy now.  Otherwise, buy tamarind puré in a plastic jar in an Indian grocery store.) Put the heat back onto high and cover till the water is boiling. Remove the lid and boil gently till the vegetables are all soft, at least forty minutes.

Remove from heat.  Use an immersion blender to pulverize the vegetables into a creamy soup. 

Soup will have reduced when veg are soft.
If you’re not madly trying to lose weight, add the cream just before serving.  Garnish with a little plain yogurt, and garnish that with something pretty.  I would prefer cilantro leaves here, but alas, I had none, and relied on a sprinkle of nigella seed.

An immersion blender works well.
This soup will heat you through, and taste pretty luxurious too.  If you have some nice chapattis or fabulous bread around, oh, that will make it all the better.

butternut masala soup
A nice light vegetarian supper, especially if you omit the cream!  You don't need it...

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