This post appeared in my Fresh Perspective column in Kingston This Week on 22 November. I meant to post it here while I was still away but between American Thanksgiving and driving home from Vermont yesterday – I’m late!
I’m making this wonderful four-ingredient vegan soup this weekend – a perfect, warming recipe for a cold, late November weekend.
The Joy of Soup
I’m spending a month away from home – in Vermont – where I’m doing a writing residency. One of the huge joys and perils of being here is that the talented (though slightly ferocious) chef cooks three meals a day for the staff and sixty some-odd artists visiting from around the world.
It’s a joy because the chef – who has tattoos of scallops, garlic cloves, and cooking implements down his arms – is inspired and creative. This is his art – beautiful food – and it’s exciting to see what he will come up with next. It’s a peril because most of us are gaining weight, unable to resist the temptation of mussel and prawn curry, maple glazed ribs, New York bagels and lox, Maine scallops, brown sugar glazed salmon with cranberry couscous, and local Vermont bacon, cheddar, yogurt and apples. The brownies are practically dangerous they’re so wickedly good – dense, dark and loaded with walnuts. And at every meal there are loaves of artisan rye bread and Vermont creamery butter.
It’s an interesting thing being fed three meals a day. As a lover of food, kitchens and cooking, I appreciate the huge effort, care, and time that goes into the meals I’m being served. I know firsthand that really good cooking is a labour of love. Not having to grocery shop, plan menus, spend time cooking or cleaning up afterwards has freed me up to do so many other things. But that said one of the things I’m most looking forward to is getting back into my own small but efficient and beautiful kitchen.
I’m not ungrateful but all the choice and abundance have left me craving simple one-dish meals. My own perfectly scrambled eggs on thinly sliced homemade brown bread, toasted and lightly buttered. Homemade soup. A grilled cheddar cheese sandwich. An uncomplicated salad of organic greens, roasted beets and chèvre with a balsamic vinaigrette. A humble potato and onion frittata.
But it’s this soup – Curried Butternut Squash Soup – made with only four ingredients that I’m longing for most. It’s healthy, fast to make, satisfying and tasty. It’s also gluten-free, dairy-free and vegan – so an excellent recipe to have on hand if you’re catering to anyone on a special diet. I made a pot before I left and I’m still thinking about how good it was. It’s the first thing I’ll make when I get back home.
Don’t substitute any other type of squash in this recipe. Butternut squash are perfect for soup making because they are intensely flavourful, dense, and cook down to a perfect silky consistency. Like most of the rest of the winter squash family, they are high in fibre, loaded with beta carotene, very low in fat and sodium, and a good source of Vitamins A, B6, C, and E, as well as folate, calcium, magnesium, potassium and manganese. Measure for measure butternut squash has half the calories and carbohydrates of sweet potato. On top of all this – like most of the squash family – butternut squash are easy to grow and inexpensive to buy.
This recipe from A Taste of Wintergreen serves four and makes a perfect simple meal with a good loaf of bread.
Curried Butternut Squash Soup
1 large butternut squash (approx. 1.2 kg), peeled, and cut into 1-inch chunks (about 5-6 cups of cubed squash and don’t worry if there’s more)
4 cups organic vegetarian stock
1 400 ml can coconut milk
1 tbsp red curry paste (I use Patak’s Madras Curry Paste)
Bring the squash to the boil in the stock and let simmer for about 15-20 minutes or until squash is very tender. When the squash is soft enough to mash with a potato masher, remove from the heat and mash thoroughly, in the stock.
Return the soup to low heat, stir in the curry paste and then the coconut milk. Let the soup cook for a further 5-10 minutes to allow the flavours to meld, and serve immediately.