Recipe: Curried Butternut Squash Soup

CINNAMON, CARDAMOM, AND CLOVES ARE THREE KEY SPICES IN CURRIED BUTTERNUT SQUASH SOUP

From the Vitality Food Feature ‘Indian Cuisine Heats Up the Kitchens of the North’.

My grandparents grew a huge patch of mixed squashes in their backyard garden – all kinds of gourds from acorn and butternut squash to pumpkins and zucchini. And they all found their way into grandma’s big soup pot! According to grandma’s old handwritten doctoring journals, this satisfying soup has the power to ward off winter ailments like colds and ‘flus, as well as clean up congestion and flush impurities from the system. Grandma also claimed that butternut squash, like carrots, is “good for the eyes…,” and since it’s a rich source of beta-carotene, the old claims about squash helping to “sharpen the eyesight…” are hard to dispute.

I have two methods for making this wonderful curried butternut squash soup – one is grandma’s original recipe that simply calls for a dash of ready-made curry powder in place of all the whole spices, making it suitable for those who fancy a milder soup or are new to Indian cuisine.  The other option is an authentic Indian curried soup made using fresh ground spices that produce a much deeper flavour and aroma. As a side note, you can make this soup with pumpkin and other members of the squash family and if you don’t have enough of one type to fill the pot, you can mix squashes or use carrots to make up the measure. Using a pestle and mortar or spice mill, grind to a fine powder the following:

Ingredients

  • 1-1/2 Tbsp whole coriander seeds
  • 1/2 tsp whole cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp each of yellow and black mustard seeds
  • 2 cardamom pods
  • 3 black peppercorns
  • 1-inch piece of cinnamon bark
  • 2 whole cloves

1) Put the powdered spice blend into a small dish and blend in 1 teaspoon turmeric powder. This is the spice mixture for the soup in the measure that I use. If you find it too spicy for your taste, you can save some of the powder for another day.

2) Alternatively, if making grandma’s version of the soup, all you need for spices is 1 to 2 tablespoons (to suit taste) of store-bought or homemade curry powder.

3) Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil, butter, or ghee (traditionally used in Indian cuisine) in a soup pot.

4) Add 1 chopped onion, 4 cloves of minced garlic, and 1 diced chilli or jalapeño pepper and sauté until onion is soft.

5) Add 1 teaspoon grated ginger root, 1-1/2 pounds of peeled, chopped butternut squash, and the spice mixture. Cook until spices are absorbed.

6) Add 6 cups of vegetable stock.

7) Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer until squash is very tender.

8) Mash to desired consistency using a hand-held potato masher or puree in a food processor or blender for smoother soup.

9) Season with sea salt and black pepper and garnish each bowl with a swirl of thick plain yogurt upon serving.

Linda Gabris is an avid cook who enjoys sharing her grandmother’s old recipes and medicinal preparations as they were recorded in the handwritten journals passed down to her. Linda also enjoys gardening and foraging for edible wild foods. Over the years, she has taught cooking courses in Prince George, B.C., with a focus on healthy eating, food preparation, and International cuisine.

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