By Priscilla Martel
Cozy season means snuggling in and savoring the last bits of warm sunlight each day. Soup is the king of comfort food we turn to for contentment and what the Danish call hygge. I hope this Butternut Squash Leek Apple Curry Soup gets you into the soup making mood. It’s more than the sum of its parts, somewhat salty, sweet and a touch piquant.
This chunky soup combines chopped leeks and rough-cut butternut squash, apple and tomato cubes in a subtly creamy broth. As bits of the squash and tomato break down, they make the soup stock cloudy. Pureeing some of the finished soup plus adding coconut milk at the end brings the soup together.
For seasoning, the soup uses curry powder. It gets a slight kick from two small fresh chili peppers. We grew lemon drop chili’s this summer, ají limon. They took forever to ripen but rewarded us with medium hot heat. A small chili de Arbol would be good or even a jalapeño would work. Just be careful because a Tablespoon of one chopped chili might blow your socks off. And if you are tempted to use a habanero or lantern chili, do not chop it. Put it into the broth and take it out when the soup is done.
Making soup tests a cook’s skill with seasonings. You need to taste at every stage and adjust the seasonings as you go. Add salt only a little at a time because the flavors will concentrate as the soup simmers. Underripe vegetables bring more acidity to the soup. Ripe tomatoes may be sweet and juicy or mealy and dry. Take that into account as you decide to simmer the soup longer. You can even chill the soup overnight then adjust the seasonings when you reheat it. That’s what I often do.
We teach students in culinary school to consider the style of their restaurant when developing each dish. A rustic café merits a chunky approachable soup like the one pictured here. Foods with a rustic appearance are simple and approachable even if the flavors are more adventuresome. But if you want something a little swanky, puree the soup. It will look like another seasonal butternut squash soup with an unexpected taste.
Yield: 6 – 7 Servings, 8 ounces each
1 leek, approximately 8 ounces
1 butternut squash, approximately 1 ¾ pounds or 1 ½ pounds prechopped squash
3 tart apples such as Cortland, Granny Smith or Macoun, approximately 1 pound
1 or 2 small hot chili peppers seeded and chopped
1 Tablespoon chopped garlic
1 Tablespoon chopped or grated fresh ginger
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 pound fresh tomatoes, diced, approximately 2 cups
1 ½ teaspoons curry powder
½ teaspoon cumin
4 cups vegetable or chicken stock
Salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
1 cup coconut milk
Chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley as needed for garnish
- Trim the outside leaves and any tough green tops from the leek. Cut off the stem. Split the leek in half lengthwise. Rinse it under cold running water then chop the leek into ¼-inch pieces to make approximately 1 cup.
- Peel squash with a vegetable peeler. Be careful because it gets slippery. Cut the round end in half. Scoop out the seeds and save them to toast if you like. Dice the squash into ½-inch pieces to make approximately 5 cups.
- Peel then quarter the apples. Cut out the core and peel each piece. Chop the apples into ½-inch pieces.
- Sauté the leeks, chili, garlic and ginger in the oil over medium high heat until softened, for about 5 – 6 minutes.
- Add the squash, apples, diced tomatoes, curry powder, cumin and stock. Stir to combine. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered until the squash and apples are tender and the flavors blend, for 20 – 30 minutes.
- Adjust the seasonings with salt and pepper.
- To serve, heat the soup to boiling. Remove 1 cup of the soup. Place it in a blender and process until smooth. (Or insert an immersion blender into the soup and purée it slightly.) Remove the soup from the heat and stir in the coconut milk. Heat it gently if needed. Adjust the seasonings. Garnish with generous amounts of the chopped parsley.
Variation: Butternut Squash Leek Apple Curry Bisque
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Spread the diced squash and apples out onto a greased paper-lined sheet pan. Roast until the squash and apples are tender, for about 15 minutes. Add the cooked mixture in Step 5 with the listed ingredients. Simmer 10 – 15 minutes to blend the flavors. Puree the soup until silky smooth before serving.