This was the first vegan meal I ever ate that I loved. I didn’t even know the term “vegan” yet, but was blown away that a meal THIS delicious didn’t have meat or dairy in it. It’s amazing as is (from Taste Magazine, Fall/07 issue), but I have some variations at the end of the recipe if you want to add more protein or just more veggies that still preserve the soup’s beautiful colour.
2½ lbs (1.25 kg) or 1 medium-large butternut squash
½ head (about 6 cloves) whole garlic
1 large onion, very coarsely chopped
2 tbsp (30 ml) ginger root, peeled, minced
1 stalk lemon grass, ends trimmed (optional but highly recommended)
1-3 lime leaves (optional but highly recommended)
3 cups (750 ml) vegetable stock or bouillon
2½ tbsp (22 ml) soy sauce (GF if needed)
1 tbsp (15 ml) Thai red curry paste
2 tsp (10 ml) dark brown sugar (optional)
398 ml can coconut milk
lime wedges and cilantro
Preheat oven to 375 F (190 C). Half squash and scrape out seeds. Place cut side down in a small amount of water in a baking pan. Brush ½ unpeeled garlic head with oil and tuck alongside. Roast in the preheated oven for 45 minutes or until squash is tender when pierced with a sharp knife.
Meanwhile, heat a tablespoon of oil in a large deep saucepan. Add onion and ginger and sauté over medium-low heat until soft, about 7 minutes. Be careful not to brown or scorch. Stir often. Cut lemon grass into 3 inch pieces and add. Add lime leaves. Stir in stock, soy sauce, curry paste, and sugar. Remove from the heat and set aside.
When squash is tender, cut peel from squash and cut flesh into chunks. Add to stock. Pop roasted garlic from their skins and add. Bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer for 25 to 30 minutes for flavours to blend. If using lemon grass and lime leaves, remove with a slotted spoon and discard. Purée remaining ingredients using a hand-held blender or purée in two batches in a blender or food processor until squash is smooth. Return to saucepan. Whisk in coconut milk and heat through.
Squeeze the juice of a wedge of lime over each serving and garnish with cilantro before serving. Don’t skip this step! It completes the recipe. But if you’re one of those people who hates cilantro then just do the lime.
If you’re pressed for time, you can skip roasting the garlic and butternut squash. Just add it to the broth with the spices, onion etc. Also, peeling the squash is actually not necessary. Peeling does give soup a “silkier” texture though, if that’s what you’re going after.
You can also roast the squash and garlic ahead of time and keep in the fridge up to a few days. I do this if I’m roasting other veggies anyway but won’t have time to fully prepare the soup that day.
I usually add some cauliflower, yellow and/or red lentils (for protein), carrots, yams—basically anything that doesn’t compromise the lovely orange colour. It’s a great way to add more veggies and clean out my fridge 🙂
The “broth” should taste saltier than you normally want, because by the time you blend all the vegetables the saltiness disappears and just tastes wonderful.
You can eliminate or reduce the sugar (I use barely any if at all: For example, if I’m using carrots they lend a sweetness so don’t need any sugar).
I love Thai red curry, but Thai yellow curry or Indian curry also work really well; same with cumin, a bit of cinnamon or nutmeg, or whatever tickles your fancy. Probably skip the lemongrass and lime leaves if you’re not doing the Thai curry.
FYI lemongrass and lime leaves are readily available at T&T market and Superstore. I think I’ve seen at Save-on-foods too. They keep well in freezer for a year.
Soup freezes well, but if freezing, don’t add the coconut milk. After you thaw it, soup will look like mush but be patient. Heat it up, stirring well, and THEN add coconut milk. It’ll be almost as perfect as freshly made soup 🙂