butternut squash soup

Curried Butternut Squash Soup

Is this the perfect Autumn soup or what? I saw a recipe for a soup similar to this on a vegan food blog I followPeas and Thank You, and decided it looked good and that I should try it out. (The fact that I had 2 butternut squashes from my CSA pick-up just begging to have SOMETHING done to them other than sit on the kitchen table for 3 weeks had a lot to do with this decision.)

But, being me, I couldn’t just leave the recipe as it was. It started simply, with just subbing in homemade chicken stock for the vegetable broth. Then I thought that it could use a little sweetness, so added a little maple syrup. And apple cider. And then I decided that a little cream would really finish up the soup nicely. And maybe also some red pepper for a little more kick.

Really, I just started tossing things in from around my kitchen. Sometimes, this is a dangerous thing. But this time, it turned out great!

Butternut squash, if you’re not familiar with it, is a firm, slightly sweet fall squash that’s a bit like pumpkin. It smells wonderful. If you want, you could use any winter squash, or even canned pumpkin (which, after all, is a squash) but I think butternut is the best!

Not only does this soup utilize my favorite fall squash, it’s also full of great anti-inflammation promoting spices, so you’re actually fighting inflammation by eating it! Perfect! And, while you make it your house will smell divine. It will make your mouth water and your vegan neighbor come over wishing you hadn’t put chicken stock and cream in it so that she could have some too.

(True story.)

The finished soup is…okay…on its own. It has a nice flavor, full of Indian spices and a slight sweetness, but – for me – is a little too much like warm baby food. Something about the pureed consistency of it throws me off. So, the way it’s really great is if you put things in it. There are probably no end of things you could add to this soup, but what I added was chopped leftover chicken, thin slices of fontina cheese (the salty, creamy cheese balanced out the sweet-spicy soup PERFECTLY) and some roasted pumpkin seeds (pepitas). And it was perfect.

You could also use this as a kind of curry sauce and serve it with chicken and rice. Or whatever else you’d want to use a curry sauce for. It also freezes great. I froze half of the batch that I made in small amounts for future use.

What to do:

This soup is really easy to make. All it involves is roasting veggies, pureeing them, and then cooking it up in a pot with the rest of the ingredients. That’s it. Anyone can do it!

Cut the squash in half and remove the seeds, then cut the onion in half, and core the apple and cut it in half too. (If you don’t have an apple corer, just cut the apple into quarters and cut out the seeds.) Leave the skin on everything: The skin helps protect the fruit and veggies so that they don’t dry out, and also makes them cook up faster. That’s what I usually do, but I didn’t do that this time. I followed the instructions on the recipe that said to peel and cube them, but they got all tough and dry on the outside and took over an hour to cook. So, trust me and leave the skin on!

Take a head of garlic and cut off the top. Not the side with the root – the other side. You want to keep the root so that the cloves all still hold together. Roasting the garlic this way will turn it into a sweet, buttery, mild garlic wonder. Mmmmmm.

Take the squash, apples, onions, and garlic, rub the cut sides in olive oil that you’ve sprinkled onto a foil-lined baking sheet, and arrange them. Put the tray into the oven and bake at 375 for 30-45 minutes, or until a fork pokes into the “neck” of the squash easily. When they come out they’ll all be soft and caramelized and wonderful!

Let them cool for about 15 minutes, and then take off the skins. They should just slip right off with hardly any effort at all. Plop all the skinned veggies (and apple) into a blender or food processer, along with a bit of broth, and blend until they’re smooth. To get the garlic out, simply pick it up and squeeze. It all comes out in melting deliciousness.

After it’s all blended together, put it in a pot. It will be rather thick.

And then add all the other ingredients except the cream. If you add the cream now it’ll risk curdling and ruining the whole pot. If you don’t think you’d like it sweet, then leave out the syrup and apple cider out and just add more broth.

Simmer, stirring occasionally, for at least 30 minutes. In the few minutes before serving, add the cream and stir it in. Taste it and adjust for your likes. If you think it should be sweeter, add more syrup or apple cider. If you think it should be thinner, add more broth. If you think it needs more kick, add more curry powder or cayenne pepper.

As I said, for me this soup was a little blah on its own, because the texture just got to me. Warm baby food. I need something to chew on when I eat (which is probably why I like the nut streusel on the stewed apple recipe). But, with things added in, it’s divine. I strongly recommend thin slices of a cheese like brie, gruyere, or fontina! It’s the perfect counterpoint to the flavors in the soup.

Since I ran out of time to take pictures on the day I made this soup, I had to heat up another bowl for lunch just now so that I could get a shot. I put bacon, chicken, and fontina cheese in it. I’m being forced to eat it now. Oh, the sacrifices I make for this blog….

Curried Butternut Squash Soup

  • 1 large onion
  • 1 head garlic
  • 1 1/2 lbs. butternut squash (about 1 large)
  • 1 large apple
  • Drizzle of olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 1/2 cups broth (chicken or vegetable)
  • 1/2 cup apple cider
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • 2 Tbsp real maple syrup
  • 3 tsp  curry powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp garam masala
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • toppings (ideas listed below)

Preheat the oven to 375 and drizzle a little olive oil on a foil-lined baking sheet. Cut the butternut squash in half and remove the seeds. Cut an onion in half, leaving the skins on. Either core the apple with a corer and then cut it in half, or cut the apple into quarters and then cut the seeds out. Cut the top off a head of garlic, leaving the root intact. Rub the cut sides of the squash, onion, apple, and garlic in the oil on the tray and place them on the tray, cut sides down. Put the baking sheet in the oven and roast for 30-45 minutes, or until a fork will poke into the squash easily.

Let the veggies cool for about 15 minutes, and then remove the skins. Place the skinned veggies into a blender or food processer and squeeze the garlic out on top of them. Add a little broth, and then blend or process until smooth. Do this in batches if necessary.

Put the pureed veggies in a large pot with the rest of the ingredients except the cream. Cook over medium or medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes. Add cream in last few minutes of cooking and adjust ingredients for taste – adding salt, cayenne pepper, curry, or syrup as necessary. Serve in bowls with an assortment of toppings.

(If, like me, you don’t have garam masala on hand, but do have lots of individual spices, and don’t feel like running to the store for it, this is the recipe I used to make some up.)

Ideas for Toppings

  • thin slices of a cheese like brie, gruyere, or fontina
  • cooked, cubed chicken
  • cooked, crumbled bacon
  • diced spicy chorizo
  • roasted pumpkin seeds (pepitas) or roasted seeds from the squash
  • roasted, chopped nuts
  • chopped peanuts
  • sour cream
  • Greek yogurt
  • creme fraiche
  • diced apples
  • shredded coconut
  • chili oil
  • kale chips
  • lime zest and juice
  • sautéed shallots, onions, or leeks
  • raisins or dried cranberries