Sunday, October 16, 2011

Thai Curry Butternut Squash Soup

I apologize for not having a photo of this one, as it was a beautiful soup, but my camera battery is dead!

I do want to make this soup again (Steve says is up there with gumbo and potato leek as the top three), so I'll get the recipe down even without a photo. Also, it is a unique soup. I couldn't find a recipe quite like it and ended up improvising a bit.

I'm not a fan of butternut squash, which I think is bland and takes way too much preparation work. However, they're REALLY easy to grow and I have a lot of them. In past years they've gone mouldy and soft in the basement, so this year I am determined to do a few things differently. First, I will cut up two at a time when using one and freeze the leftover squash for later recipes. Second, I resolved to find a butternut squash soup I liked.

I knew I wanted a curry soup, but couldn't find one with Indian curry powder that sounded very complex or interesting. The curry powder seemed like an afterthought, and the recipe couldn't help adding nutmeg as well. I know nutmeg is used in Indian food, but I really wanted to avoid the whole pumpkin pie squash thing. Having used the technique of throwing in curry powder to spice up a potato-cheese soup, I didn't want to go that route.

I did find an interesting curry squash soup recipe in Asparagus to Zucchini, a cookbook produced by the Madison, Wisconsin area CSAs. It was too complex, with kaffir limes, curry leaves and lemongrass, which I don't generally have, but it was a start. Here's what I made in the end, and it was really exceptional-- beautiful, tasty and not difficult once the squash was diced.

Thai Curry Butternut Squash Soup
1 Tbs vegetable oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 Tbs red curry paste
5 cups diced butternut squash
1 can chicken broth (or vegetable) plus 1/2 cup water (approx 3 cups)
1 cup coconut milk (my coconut milk was pretty separated... I used maybe 1/2 cup and then 1/2 cup regular milk)
1/2 cup fish sauce (Don't leave this out! I am squeamish about it, so gave a first good shot, then tasted and added another long squeeze of the bottle.)
salt to taste
cilantro (for garnish)

Saute the curry paste in the vegetable oil for 30 seconds in a soup pot and add diced onion. Saute until translucent, about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, in a large pot of boiling water, boil the diced squash for 8-10 minutes until soft. Drain. Add squash, broth and coconut milk to the pot. Simmer for 10-15 minutes, then puree with an immersion blender (or in batches in a regular blender) and add fish sauce. Simmer another five minutes and add salt to taste. I did also add a few shakes of a "Thai seasoning blend" I got on clearance when World Market went out of business in town. I believe it has ginger and red pepper mostly, maybe also some lemongrass powder. Lemon grass powder (or whole) and ginger would be good additions to this soup in small measure.

The color of the soup is light, creamy and golden, and it has just the right kick and just the right tang of Thai food. It's still somewhat delicate, so we took the opportunity to open a good Pinot Noir. With good bread, this could easily be a meal. (We had no bread, so I served it with rice, which we dipped in spoonfuls into the soup.)

The best thing is, I have 9 cups of cubed butternut squash in the freezer, so next time I will cut most of the prep!

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