Curried Butternut Squash and Coconut Milk Soup

Fall

Fall is here, which is kind of sad because it’s getting colder and the days are getting shorter, but it’s just. so. beautiful. I don’t know…there’s something romantic about the colors of the leaves changing and the cool air arriving. It’s cozy. Soups are good for cozy weather, but I’ll get to that in a moment. First…these trees!!

Rideau Canal

Last weekend we took advantage of that sweet spot between mid-september when most of the leaves have turned and the first serious rains which make the leaves fall off and took a little hike up into Gatineau Park. (By the way, I don’t just know these things – fall sweet spots and whatnot – the more experienced ones tell me. They say, “Lisa, it’s time. This is the weekend to go see the leaves.”)

Gatineau Park

They were right. And the views from the top did not disappoint.

Gatineau Park

It looks like a colorful carpet! And that’s lil’ ol’ Ottawa in the distance. We even saw a few Turkey Vultures.

Gatineau Park

A couple more, and then I’ll tell you quickly about my soup.

Gatineau Park

Gatineau Park

Really, the soup is simple; I needed an excuse to show you all the fall! I know most of you, my lovely readers, are still in hundred degree weather that shows no signs of ever letting up, and I’m sorry about that. And about what it’s doing to our beautiful state. And you probably don’t feel like even thinking about making or eating or even looking at soup. But I do. You all can just keep this one in your back pocket for when the temperatures do finally cool down.

Butternut Squash SoupIt’s a quick and simple soup with a rich silky texture. Oh, also, it has like only 200 calories per serving. That’s always nice. Also, if you’re totally bored just thinking about cutting and peeling that sucker, you could slice it down the middle and then roast it in the oven.

Curried Butternut Squash and Coconut Milk Soup

Makes 4 servings or 8 cups

Ingredients:

4 pounds butternut squash, peeled and chopped into cubes

1 small onion, roughly chopped

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 tablespoons curry powder

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (more or less or not at all – up to you!)

Salt and pepper to taste

1 can of light coconut milk (reserve 1/4 cup for garnishing, if you want)

1 or 2 cups broth (whatever kind you like, I use vegetable)

1/4 cup raw pumpkin seeds (optional)

  • Peel and chop the butternut squash and chop the onion.
  • In a large pot, heat the olive oil on medium high heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring frequently, until they start to lightly brown. You may need to lower the heat so you can get some color, without them burning or sticking to the bottom of the pan. About 5 – 8 minutes
  • Add the spices to the onion and stir to toast the curry a bit. About a minute
  • Add the chopped butternut squash, coconut milk, and then add broth until the liquids just barely cover the squash. Cover and bring to a boil and then lower to a simmer. Cook for about 30 minutes, or until the squash is tender, stirring occasionally.
  • In the mean time, lightly toast the pumpkin seeds (if using them) either in a pan or in the oven. Keep an eye on them – they toast super fast and I am guilty of throwing away more than one batch!!
  • Use an immersion blender to puree the soup. Or pour it into a stand-up blender in batches. Serve and garnish with a tablespoon of the reserved coconut milk, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and the pumpkin seeds.

Coconut Curry Lentils

Getting to spring around here feels like a little game of two steps forward, one step back. This week we had the warmest day in the two months I’ve been here (38 degrees – watch out!) followed immediately by one of the largest snowfalls in the two months I’ve been here. As I see pictures go up on various social media sites from friends and family around the world, all of them excited about the first flowers, picnics, and cañas al sol, I can’t help but feel a little left out. Apparently this is the worst winter Canada has experienced in 20-some years. So, I’m just warning you, when it does arrive, I’m probably going to talk about it a lot (not that I don’t already talk about it a lot).

Cold weather requires warm food. Lentils are filling without being heavy so they are perfect for winter (or Canadian spring) when you need some serious food as fuel to stay warm out there. These coconut curry lentils are so savory and comforting, and a little sweet from the winter squash.

Coconut Curry LentilsStart by letting the lentils soak over night, or if you plan to cook at night, you can let them soak during the day while you’re at work. You don’t have to soak legumes, but they cook much faster if you do. Soak them at least 8 hours in the pot you’re going to cook them in, covered by 2 or 3 inches of water. Then drain the water and fill the pot with fresh water, again covered by a couple inches. Then cook for 20 -30 minutes at a very soft simmer, so they don’t break apart, until they are tender.  1 and 1/2 cups dry lentils equals about 4 cups cooked, which will give you minimum 4 servings. I did this in the morning while I was having breakfast and getting ready for work, then I just drained the water and let them cool all day, but you can certainly do this while you make the remainder of the recipe.

Next, prepare the squash. I used one whole acorn squash, but, due to their irregular shape, they are kind of a pain to peel. Butternut squash or any other winter squash you like will work too. Cut, scoop out the innards and peel, then cut it up into 1 inch cubes.

Acorn squash

Then, in a large pan, heat 1 & 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil and sauté 1/2 of a large onion and 1 clove of garlic, both finely chopped. Add 1 & 1/2 tablespoons of yellow curry powder, 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, and salt and pepper.

Spices

Side note: I love these adorable little spice jars!

Once the onion is translucent, add the squash and cook for a few more minutes at a medium-low heat. Then add about 4 cups of fresh spinach. Give it a rough chop first so the pieces aren’t so big. That cooks down really fast, so once it does, add the cooked lentils, 1/2 cup of cashews, 1 whole can of coconut milk + a can-full of water.

Spinach and lentils

And that’s all there is to it. Let that simmer gently for about 20 minutes, or until the squash is tender and a lot of the liquid has evaporated. The consistency should be thick, not brothy. Top it all off with about 1/2 cup of fresh chopped cilantro. I adore cilantro, but if you don’t feel as strongly about it as I do, leave it out, or substitute basil! That would be equally amazing.

Coconut Curry LentilsIt’s ready to serve right away, but also stores nicely. And now I’ll shamelessly plug my mom’s amazing ceramics! She gave me this bowl last time I was home, said it was a “mistake” and that the glaze somehow slipped off, but I love it! It reminds me of waves. Everything tastes better out of a pretty bowl!

ceramic ocean bowl

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day everyone!! I heard Ottawa takes it seriously, so I’m going to get out there and have myself a green beer!

Coconut Curry Lentils – Recipe (Serves 4-6)

  • 1.5 cups dry lentils or 4 cups cooked lentils
  • 1/2 large onion
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1.5 tablespoons yellow curry
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or to taste)
  • Salt & Pepper
  • 1 acorn squash (or other winter squash) peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 4 cups fresh spinach, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup cashews
  • 1 can coconut milk + 1 can full of water or broth
  • 1/2 cup cilantro or basil, chopped

Chicken Curry with Cashews and Cous Cous

I’m home from work, drinking a glass of red wine, and watching Fight Club on T.V. thinking about how neglected my blog has been this week. The cooking has been done (so has the eating) and the picture have been taken, but I have yet to share the deliciousness that is Chicken Curry (how?!). Unfortunately, my dog has other plans for me, so with an arsenal of toys to throw across the room every time he gets particularly demanding of my attention, I prepare to write about one of my specialties. I think I can call it that… It’s kind of my own recipe. I mean I learned the concept somewhere along the line, but this is how I make it and it’s one of those things I’ve perfected over time.

It starts out with one medium onion, 2 shallots all chopped up – it’s about a cup – and 2 cloves of garlic (which I leave whole so that I can remove them later, but then again I do this with every recipe because I really don’t like eating garlic even though I like the taste it adds to food). Anyway, back to curry: I add this to 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. I start to cook this slowly while I wash, dry and cut one pound of boneless, skinless chicken breasts into one-inch cubes. Once the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes, add the chicken, a teaspoon of salt and 2 tablespoons of curry powder. Curry powder on its own isn’t really very spicy, so I also add 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper – add more or less depending on your preferences.

Stir this mixture every minute or so until the chicken is almost fully cooked, about 5 more minutes. Then add a whole can of unsweetened coconut milk, one cup of chicken broth, and 3/4 cup of roasted, unsalted cashews. Unsalted is best so that it doesn’t make your curry too salty, since you can’t really control the amount of salt on the cashews. Bring this mixture to a simmer and keep it on low heat simmering, uncovered for about 20 minutes until the sauce thickens a bit.

This is how it looks when it’s done. Take it off the heat and in a small saucepan boil one cup of chicken broth and 1/4 cup of rasins. When it comes to a boil take it off the heat, add one cup of cous cous, stir and cover immediately. In about 10 minutes, take the cover off and fluff the cous cous with a fork.

Serve one cup of cooked cous cous into a shallow bowl and spoon the Chicken Curry over it. This recipe makes 4 servings and curry is twice as good the next day…just sayin’.

Here’s an ingredient list:

Curry:

  • one medium onion, finely chopped
  • two shallots, finely chopped
  • two cloves of garlic
  • one pound of boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into one-inch cubes
  • 2 tablespoons curry powder
  • one teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • one can of unsweetned coconut milk
  • one cup chicken broth
  • 3/4 cup unsalted, roasted cashews

Cous Cous:

  • one cup cous cous
  • one cup chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup rasins

Calabaza, Corn, and Coconut Soup

Calabaza Squash looks similar to a Butternut Squash, but has the texture and flavor of a pumpkin or Kabocha Squash. They sell this squash here in Spain and call it “Calabaza”, and the first time I bought it, I mistook it for Butternut Squash thinking that, since calabaza means “pumpkin”, it was just a generic name for squash. Imagine my disappointment when the recipe I was making turned out badly.

So, when I came across a recipe that had this mysterious gourd in it’s title, I had to try it. This recipe got four out of four forks on epicurious.com and rightfully so – the soup is creamy and satisfying and the relish adds a complexity of contrasting flavors. Basically, it’s a party in your mouth.

Start with a base of onion and garlic, and then add cubed Calabaza and chopped Cilantro stems (save the leaves for the corn relish). Water and coconut milk get added to this mix and let it simmer for about 15 minutes. Once the Calabaza is tender, turn off the heat and use an immersion blender to puree until smooth.

The corn relish is marinated in a dressing of lemon juice, salt, a pinch of sugar, Cilantro and olive oil. After serving the soup, add a spoonful of this relish and the tangy flavor of the lemon and cilantro provide a clean, fresh balance to the coconut milk’s creaminess and cayenne’s spice. I had some coconut milk left over so I drizzled a little bit at the end just to make it look awesome.

The recipe, which is below, says you can substitute Kabocha Squash if you can’t get your hands on Calabaza. Also, the relish calls for lime juice, but I can’t always find limes here (same old story) so I used lemon, and just a tad less than the recipe calls for because lemon is more bitter than lime. The spice level is right on in my opinion, spicy but not detracting from the flavors, but if you are more sensitive you could use less. Lastly, my boyfriend is not completely on board with Cilantro, so I used about half of what the recipe called for – still delicious!

OK, here you have it (it’s really easy, so you should definitely try it!)

Soup:

  • 2tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped Cilantro stems
  • 2 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
  • 1 (2 1/4 lb) piece of Calabaza Squash, or 1 (2 and 1/2 lb) piece of Kabocha Squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1/2 inch cubes (6 cups)
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 1/4 cup canned unsweetened coconut milk, well-stirred
  • 3 ears of corn (fresh or frozen), kernels cut off and reserved for relish
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

Relish:

  • 4 1/2 tbsp lime juice
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • pinch of sugar
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cups corn kernels
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped Cilantro
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped shallot

To make soup: Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat, add onion and saute until lightly browned around the edges, about 4 minutes. Add Cilantro and garlic, cook 3 more minutes. Add Calabaza pieces, cook, stirring frequently, about 3 minutes. Add water and coconut juice, corn cobs, salt and cayenne pepper. Bring to simmer and cook until squash is tender, about 15 minutes.

To make relish: Mix lime juice, salt and sugar in a bowl. Add olive oil and whisk until combined. Cook corn in boiling water until just tender, about 3 minutes, drain and rinse with cold water to stop cooking. Drain completely and add corn, cilantro and shallot and toss well to coat.

To finish the soup, discard the corn cobs and puree with an immersion blender, or in batches in a blender. Serve in bowls and add a spoonful of relish to be gently stirred into soup.

*Recipe courtesy of Gourmet on epicurious.com (link)