I love winter squash, I really do. But at this point in the year, I start to grow a little tired of squash. All you locavores out there know exactly what I mean. The bountiful harvests of summer are long gone, and we are left with squash, squash, and more squash. I may be exaggerating ever-so-slightly, but you get the idea.
So, it is precisely at this time of year – when I feel myself despairing at the thought of eating one more squash – that I come back to my favorite squash recipe: a simple curried butternut squash soup. All it takes is one bite of this soup and I forget my wintertime woes. It doesn’t matter how many other ways I attempt to prepare winter squash, I always come back to this recipe. There is just something so special about it. The curry powder and cayenne add a subtle (and delightful) spice, while the maple syrup brings the perfect amount of sweetness and balance to the soup. The secret to this particular soup is roasting the squash first, as the roasting really coaxes the most flavor out of the squash.
So, I’ll keep this short and leave you with this little tidbit: There is a brightness to this soup that I can’t quite explain. It makes me happy. And even though my heart is set on summer, this soup makes the winter seem not quite so dark.
CURRIED BUTTERNUT SQUASH SOUP
1 small onion, diced
1/2 cup fennel bulb, diced (about 1/2 a bulb)
1 medium butternut squash, peeled & cubed
4-5 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1/4 cup cream (*can easily be omitted to make recipe vegan or dairy-free)
2 tsps (or more) of your favorite curry powder
2 Tablespoons Maple syrup
1 bay leaf
2-3 sprigs fresh thyme
Dash of cayenne pepper
Salt & pepper to taste
1. Roast the squash: Heat oven to 400 degrees. Toss cubed squash with a bit of olive oil, salt, and pepper and spread into an even layer on a baking sheet. Roast until tender (about 20 minutes).
2. Heat olive oil in a large soup pot or dutch oven over medium heat. Add in onions & fennel and cook until tender, 5 or 6 minutes. Stir in curry powder and cayenne and cook for one minute more. Add in roasted squash cubes and stir, cooking for 2-3 minutes. Add in stock, bay leaf, and thyme sprigs.
3. Bring mixture to a boil, and reduce to a simmer. Simmer for 20-30 minutes. After this time, remove the bay leaf & thyme springs and blend thoroughly (with an immersion blender, food processor, etc).
4. Once blended, gently stir in cream and maple syrup. Season with salt & pepper, to taste. Add a dash more curry powder, if you so desire. Let simmer on the stove on Low for a couple of minutes. Garnish with fresh ground black pepper, or a dollop of creme fraiche.