friday food: hot, hearty soups for cold, winter nights

friday food: hot, hearty soups for cold, winter nights

A few years ago, I became really curious about squash. It’s no secret that every fall and winter, root vegetables (obviously) become an incredible staple of the season, hitting grocery stores/markets/etc in large quantities at good prices.

As a result, I began experimenting.

There is a good chance I started safely with spaghetti squash. I prepared it as an alternative to standard wheat pasta with some nom-tacular pasta sauce. I was skeptical, but after giving it a taste, you’d never know that the “noodles” were vegetables rather than delicious strings of boiled dough.

Having a successful first go at it, I tried acorn squash. At least, I think it was acorn. It may have been something else. Either way, the second attempt was awful and I nixed that cute looking green squash off my list.

Then, I came around to butternut. I was a little timid after my experience with the acorn, afraid that the flesh of the butternut would taste equally bitter. Luckily, I was pleasantly surprised.

Ever since, butternut squash has been a regular fall and winter guest in my kitchen. In fact, butternut and zucchini are the only squashes to grace my kitchen at all. I haven’t revisited spaghetti squash since those early experimentation days, no matter how often I think about picking one up. It’s a shame, really. I need to be a little more proactive about that one.

I’ve been preparing butternut squash soup for maybe three or four years now. It’s undergone minor alterations over time and by now, there is no real outlined recipe anymore. I make it by eye and by taste, which is really great when you’re attempting to tell others how to make it themselves. Seriously. A number of gals asked me for my recipe a year or so ago and you should have seen the copy I put together for them. I’m fairly certain the whole thing was, “uh, some of this, some of that… just eyeball the amount of this.”

I’m afraid to tell you that this is probably going to be no better. I assure you, however, that it does taste really stinkin’ good.

Butternut squash… away!


HEARTY BUTTERNUT SQUASH SOUP (STEW)

  • 1 medium sweet onion
  • 3 medium carrots
  • 4-5 potatoes
  • 2-3 stalks celery
  • 1 medium-ish butternut squash
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • curry, if you’re feeling exotic
  • cayenne, if you’re feeling spicy
  • chicken / beef / vegetable broth (whatever tickles your fancy)
  • ground meat (optional)

I’ll start off, right away, by saying that the meat in this recipe is 100% optional. This is, traditionally, a meatless soup, but, since I can’t leave well enough alone and much more prefer my soups to be stews, with chunks of vegetables and meat in them, I’ve since started adding proteins. Also, this helps make the dish rather filling and a bowl of this stuff can leave you feeling … well … pretty stuffed yourself.

The makings of this soup are pretty basic. Chop up your celery, carrot, potato, butternut squash (not shown here) and onions and toss them around in some olive oil, salt and pepper, over medium-high heat. This allows your veggies to fry up a little prior to adding the broth, which adds a nice flavour.

Give the veggies about, oh, 5-10 minutes of fry time before adding broth. I think the recipe I originally adapted this from called for 5 minutes, or until the veggies were brown. I have never let my vegetables brown. Maybe the onion, but that’s about it.

I typically start all of the vegetables cooking, just as I’m starting to peel and chop up the squash.

I make LARGE quantities of this at a time, and so, I prefer to allow those veggies the time to fry before adding in the squash.

The quantities of vegetables listed above is based on my recent batch, which very clearly made a full pot of soup. Decrease quantities to make less, and use this rule of thumb in terms of ratio:

Most: Squash
Second most: Potato
Some: Carrots, Onion
Least: Celery

Once everything is warmed/browned to your liking, add just enough broth to cover the vegetables. If you add too much broth your soup will turn out rather watery. The idea here is to have a nice thick, creamy soup, and so, the amount of broth you add is key.

Allow everything to simmer on low heat for about 30-40 minutes, or until the squash is soft. Using an immersion blender, blend all of the veggies down, until you get a nice, creamy texture.

If you don’t have an immersion blender, a regular blender is fine, but holy smokes, be careful. I have splattered butternut squash all over my walls far too many times using a regular blender.

Leave LOTS of air space in the blender, as the heat from the soup will create a vacuum that will only explode once you start blending. You have to move pretty quick with the regular blender. Don’t leave the soup sitting in the  jar covered with the lid for too long before blending or you’re asking for trouble.

Now, as I’ve mentioned, I prefer soups that are more stew-like in nature, and so, as the soup simmers, in a separate pot, I chop up and boil an extra couple of potatoes and a carrot or two.

Then, once the soup is blended down, I add the potatoes and carrots from the separate pot, as well as the meat that I’ve prepared ahead of time, to create a thick, creamy soup base, with chunks of vegetables and meat to complete the wonder that is a steaming, hot bowl of amazing.

Add more salt and pepper if necessary. Add curry if you want to change up the flavour. Add cayenne if you want a spicier butternut squash soup.

Most importantly, enjoy.

And don’t get any on your walls.

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2 Comments to friday food: hot, hearty soups for cold, winter nights

  1. hehehe I love your ratios. I’m making some butternut squash soup tonight! :)

  2. vicentine

    I’m totally pro. ;)

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