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Sunday, November 13, 2011

Curried Butternut Squash Soup



After years of loving Indian food but being afraid to try making it myself, I have become a little more adventurous with curry, garam masala and all the rest, and this soup has made me glad that I have branched out, especially because it's such an easy recipe.

There are only two "hard' steps--cutting the squash can sometimes be a challenge but, as I mentioned in an earlier post, putting a squash in the microwave for 3 minutes or so makes cutting it much, much easier.

The other step that is difficult for me at times is the patience I need to practice while letting the onions caramelize. After you have heated the oil and added the onions, you really do need to turn the heat to medium at most and then allow the onions to slowly, slowly cook to a sweet, dark golden mass. Since these could also be cooked ahead if needed, you might want to saute them while you are washing dishes or preparing other foods, since you just have to give them a stir now and then while you wait.

As made today, this soup is meatless but not vegetarian. I had some wonderful broth that needed to be used, so that became the base for the dish I served my guests today. However, if you want to go the whole vegan route, just use vegetable broth instead of the chicken broth in the ingredients list below.

And by all means, make this ahead and reheat--it really does get better the second time around.

Curried Squash Soup

5 c roasted butternut squash (about a 2 to 3 pound squash)
2 to 3 c chopped onion--err on the side of more, not less!
3 T canola or olive oil (OR, for a non-vegetarian version, use the chicken fat from the chicken broth)
1 to 2 t finely chopped or grated fresh ginger
3 to 4 large garlic cloves, minced
1 to 1 1/2 T curry powder
1 quart chicken broth
water
1 to 2 t salt, to taste--this will vary depending on the saltiness of the broth you are using
1/2 to 1 t cayenne, according to your taste
1 c unsweetened applesauce
1 to 2 t sugar, to taste

1. Cut the squash in half and place on a baking sheet. Cover lightly with aluminum foil and roast at 350 to 375 for an hour or so, until the flesh is very soft throughout. Allow to cool and then scoop the pulp from the peeling. This step can be done well in advance of making the soup--or you can even use frozen squash puree, thawed slightly.

2. Saute the onion slowly in the oil until it is deep golden brown and almost caramelized. (Cover the pan for most of the time that the onions are cooking, stirring occasionally to be sure they don't stick on and that they are cooking evenly.) Stir in the ginger, garlic, and curry powder and continue cooking for another 5 minutes or so.

3. Add the applesauce, sugar, and broth to the sauteed onions and stir well. Simmer for a few minutes before removing the mixture from the burner so that it cools slightly.

4. In batches, combine the squash and the broth and onion mixture in a food processor and blend until very smooth. Return all of the pureed mixture to the soup pot. Add the salt and cayenne and adjust other seasonings as needed. If desired, water can be added for a thinner consistency.

5. Continue simmering the soup for a half hour or more (a slow cooker on LOW is a good thing for this) before serving, OR refrigerate and then heat slowly the next day.

If desired, sprinkle with chopped cilantro before serving.

Additional Notes:

Don't have a processor or blender?

You can still have a very smooth soup, by making sure that the onions are chopped quite fine and then mashing the onions and squash until smooth, using a potato masher. For this version, you probably would be better off using ginger and garlic powder instead of fresh ginger and garlic, for maximum smoothness.

Don't have applesauce handy?

Substitute a finely chopped apple or two for the applesauce and saute with the onions. 

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