Coming up? My winter Moroccan cooking class in Northampton, Register here!
Last year, my oldest pal, Judy, came up from the city for a perfect 24 hours, complete with book talk and a giggle over the personal ads in London Review of Books, which are witty as hell.
We even improvised a curried vegetable soup. Judy wanted to post it. But, I insisted it wasn’t a real recipe, just a throw-together that tasted delish. She countered that its easygoing nature — simmer vegetables, then blend and curry them — made it an ideal blog post. She won.
Serves about 6
Large butternut squash
About 3 leeks, whites only, chopped
3-4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 tablespoon butter, optional
2 baking potatoes, pealed and cut into 1/8th
1 can of unsweetened coconut milk
About 1 quart chicken or vegetable broth
About 1/4-1/2 cup spices*
Salt to taste
A scant handful of chopped cilantro, optional
1-Prepare the butternut. You can roast it whole or peel it and cook it raw. (Roasting is favorite approach, because It concentrates the flavor and peels effortlessly.) To roast and puree: Roast butternut squash in a 375 degree oven until very soft, about 1 hour. Split lengthwise, scrape out and discard the seeds and fiber.Remove the peel or scoop out the flesh with a spoon. Reserve. To peel and cook raw: Remove the stem. Peal the butternut, split it in half lengthwise. Scrape out the fiber and seeds and discard. Cut each butternut half into 8ths. (To save and roast the seeds, see below**).
2-Sauté the leeks and garlic in the oil over low heat, in a medium to large pot, stirring occasionally. If you are using it, drop in the butter. Add the potatoes and the raw or roasted butternut. Barely cover with broth. Simmer, covered, for 20 minutes or until the potatoes are very soft.
3-Puree the soup in a food processor until smooth and add back to the pot. (Or use an immersion blender.) Stir in almost all of the can of coconut milk with enough broth to make a thick soup.
4-Dry toast the spices in a skillet over medium heat, stirring continuously, just until fragrant but not browned, less than a minute. (*You can use curry powder, in which case 1/4 cup is plenty, but I prefer to combine plenty of cumin, coriander and turmeric, along with a touch of fenugreek, mustard, fennel and ginger. Pound seeds in a mortar and pestle or use ground spices.) Stir in the toasted spices to taste, more or less, depending if you like your soup well-spiced or subtle. (You can freeze any remaining spices for future use.) Salt to taste.
5-Heat the soup gently without boiling it for 15-20 minutes to marry the flavors, stirring in extra broth or water if it thickens too much. Serve piping hot. Garnish with the cilantro, a splash of hot sauce and the last drizzle of coconut milk from the can. (I threw on a few toasted seeds**, but Judy and I decided they are better eaten separately.)
As written, this soup works well. But, feel free to use onions or shallots instead of leeks along with the recipe’s potatoes, spices, broth and coconut milk. Then deviate from there, ditching the butternut and throwing in any seasonal vegetables that are around, such as parsnips, carrots, turnips or celery root. Don’t worry too much about quantity, because you can always add more or less broth to reach the desired texture — that of a thick soup. Just have fun and celebrate the season’s crops.
**Toasted squash seeds: Remove the fiber from the seeds, but don’t worry about getting it all. Rinse and dry the seeds, then toss with just enough oil to barely coat them. Lay out in a single layer on parchment paper on a baking sheet. Roast for 30 minutes or until they are very crisp. Salt to taste.
Where? I got my butternut from Taft Farms in Great Barrington and the leeks at nameless farm stand, but they’re readily available almost everywhere right now, as are potatoes.