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Rachel Allen’s soup for the soul: Curried Butternut Squash Soup

by Rachel Allen

published on 22 October 2021

Hi everyone! I am thrilled to be writing a monthly column here on The Happy Foodie. I’m going to be sharing a recipe every month for the next six months from my brand new cookbook Soup Broth Bread. This is a book that I am so excited about and have been squirrelling away notes, tips and recipes for for a long time.

From the book

Rachel Allen

Anyone who knows me knows that I am passionate about soup. There’s no better food to warm the heart and restore the soul. Whether it’s smooth and silky, rustic and chunky or light and brothy, soup conjures up feelings of cosiness and care for me. When I was a child, my mum always had a pot of chicken or turkey stock on the go, ready to work its magic in one of her great soups for when my sister, Simone, and I got in from school. It not only fed our bellies, it fed our hearts, and turned us into avid soup-makers, too. Now, my own home is filled with soup appreciators. It’s the first thing I offer to our children if they’re feeling under the weather (after a cuddle, of course!). Soup helps soothe everything from a sniffly cold to a tired body after a tough day; it’s no coincidence that soups and broths are often called a hug in bowl.  

Nearly every country and culture has soup at its heart. And few foods have travelled so globally – you’re nearly guaranteed to find ramen, chowder, laksa, phô and minestrone in any city. You can traverse the world just through soup. It is steeped in tradition, too. In Morocco, many Muslims eat fragrant, nourishing Harira to break Ramadan. Chicken soup is taken very seriously in millions of Jewish homes across the world and is administered for everything from mild heartache to full-on flu (hence its nickname, ‘Jewish penicillin’). Even lovers’ tiffs and family feuds have been calmed over Gazpacho in Spain and Borsht in Russia. Soup is the ultimate fixer.

There’s an age-old South American proverb that says, ‘Good broth will resurrect the dead.’ And indeed, years ago when a dear relative of mine was really unwell, homemade organic chicken broth seemed to have magical effects that had our whole family delightfully flummoxed. Whether it was the placebo effect from being cared for or the fact that it was easily digestible that enabled it to work its spell, we’ll never know, but I have an inkling.

Soup is so woven into the fabric of my family’s life that I roast a chicken at least once a week, in part for the ritual of making fresh stock. I believe that if you’re going to invest in good meat and vegetables, then it makes sense to get the maximum value out of it all. There is no better way to extract all the goodness from the leftover bones than to boil them up with nourishing vegetables and aromatic herbs. The nutrients can really help to boost our immune system, our gut, our brains, hormones, skin, and of course our mood.

Making stocks, soups and broths is almost a state of mind. I love having a rummage in the fridge and seeing what needs to be used up and turned into a soup. It’s spontaneous, creative and a terrific way of learning how different flavours work together, as well as being a great way to make the most of leftovers. There are tips in the book on using leftovers as so many cooked vegetables can be turned into a soup once you have a few other ingredients to hand.

Alongside my recipes for soups, which are sorted by the season, you’ll also find recipes for beautiful accompaniments and garnishes to bling up your bowl. Different sauces, salsas, drizzles, oils and emulsions will liven up even the simplest soup, not to mention delicious crackers, croutons and crumbs. And of course there is also a whole chapter of wonderful breads, buns, flatbreads, scones and muffins, including recipes for particular dietary needs. All perfect to serve with a steaming bowl of soup, or simply to eat warm from the oven. 

For this, the first instalment of my column, the recipe that I’m sharing with you is a curried butternut squash soup. Butternut squash is a perfect vehicle for spices and creamy coconut, and this silky smooth soup has some great gutsy flavours – just what we need right now. I adore the spicy pumpkin seed oil drizzled over the top for a contrast of textures. This is a super soup for making a large batch and freezing for a rainy day. Use other pumpkins or sweet potato in place of butternut if you wish.

Please join me on this soup adventure here at the Happy Foodie for the next six months; I’m looking forward to seeing lots of photos of your great soups, broths and breads. Just tag me at @rachelallencooks.

Curried Butternut Squash Soup

Ingredients (serves 4-6)

For the soup:

2 tbsp coconut oil

1 large onion or 2 medium (200g in weight), chopped

1 butternut squash (600g when peeled and deseeded), peeled, deseeded and cut into 1cm cubes

1 large clove of garlic, chopped

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 x 400ml tin of coconut milk

1 tbsp curry powder (see note)

450ml vegetable or chicken stock

For the garnish:

1 tbsp coconut oil

2 tbsp pumpkin seeds

A pinch of curry powder

A pinch of sea salt flakes

Method

Put the coconut oil into a saucepan over a medium heat. Add the chopped onions, butternut squash and garlic. Season with salt and pepper and stir to mix. Turn the heat down to low, cover the vegetables with a piece of parchment paper and the saucepan lid, and allow to cook slowly for 10 minutes, stirring from time to time, until they are tender.

Meanwhile, pour the coconut milk into a bowl and whisk to remove any lumps. Remove the paper cover and lid from the pan and stir in the curry powder. Turn the heat up to high and cook, stirring, for a minute, until the curry powder is wonderfully fragrant. Now add the coconut milk and the stock and bring to a rolling boil, then blend the soup until gorgeously smooth.

To make the toasted pumpkin seeds, place a frying pan over a high heat and add the coconut oil. Allow to melt and heat up, then add the pumpkin seeds and curry powder. Toss over the heat for 1–2 minutes, until the seeds have toasted and darkened slightly, then place on a plate lined with kitchen paper and sprinkle with the sea salt flakes.

Serve the soup steaming hot, with the toasted pumpkin seeds scattered over the top.

Notes

If your curry powder has been hanging around your kitchen for a year or more, it has probably gone a bit stale and could be almost tasteless. Buy a new batch for the best fresh spicy flavour – the difference will really enhance your soup.

If you’re not wanting this soup to be vegan, and you have a leftover butter wrapper in your fridge (I always hang on to mine for this reason), you can place it, butter side down, over the vegetables while they’re cooking instead of using parchment paper.

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