We’re in the midst of another polar vortex here in the Midwest and I am feeling compelled to make big pots of soup! I find making soup warms the soul as much as eating it warms the body. It’s a gratifying process that I have always loved and on this snowy day I welcomed the opportunity!
Eric, my fiancé, had roasted and then froze some butternut squash back in November, so I pulled that out to thaw and began to think about what flavor profile I wanted to take my soup. I decided exotic would be nice- thoughts of warm sandy beaches and palm trees flashing through my mind. So, coconut milk was going to be a player, and some exotic spices as well.
I took a quick inventory of spices I had on-hand, grabbed my mortar and pestle and started to add cardamom seeds, star anise, whole cloves, whole cinnamon bark (stick), Himalayan sea salt and grains of paradise (Aframomum melegueta- a species in the ginger family from West Africa, where the peppery seeds grow on a leafy plant and are easily harvested) and ground this mixture into a fragrant powder that perfumed the whole kitchen. I then added freshly grated nutmeg and a pinch of all spice. Man was this tasty! My tongue danced in delight when I tried a tiny bit and I knew I had a winning match to go with the buttery flavor of the squash and the richness of the coconut milk.
I made this soup vegetarian, using vegetable stock, but you could certainly use chicken stock if you prefer. While I do like to make my own, I also keep ready to use stocks and bouillon cubes in my pantry. Working 70-80 hrs a week at our gluten-free bakery isn’t always conducive to having the time to keep homemade stocks on hand! For this soup I used a vegan bouillon cube from Rapunzel, an all natural product from Switzerland that I get at my local health food co-op.
Here is the recipe for my Paradise Spice Blend first. It made about 2-3 tsp which is enough for the soup recipe, but you could easily double or triple it, to have some to keep in an airtight container for another use (I think it would be excellent as a rub for roasted chicken, but I’d love to hear how you would use it!)
Paradise Spice Blend (makes about 2-3 tsp)
Seeds from 4 Cardamom Pods
- 1 “petal” from a Star Anise “flower”
- 2 whole Cloves
- 1/8 tsp Grains of Paradise
- 1″ pc Stick Cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp Himalayan Coarse Sea Salt
- 1/8 tsp freshly grated Nutmeg
- pinch All Spice
- Place first 6 ingredients in a mortar & pestle and crush and grind it to a smooth powder.
- Transfer to a small bowl and add last 2 ingredients and set aside until ready to use.
One note before we proceed: Roast your squash in advance so that you’re not waiting on it when you want to make your soup! You can keep it in your fridge for several days or in the freezer for several months.
Now for the soup:
Winter Paradise Butternut Squash Soup (makes about 3 quarts)
- 2 c Onions, chopped (about 2 medium onions)
- 3 lg cloves Garlic, minced
- 1T Coconut Oil (or Olive Oil, but I love the amazing taste, versatility and health benefits of coconut)
- 6 cups Butternut Squash, roasted, peeled and rough-chopped ( about 2 avg. sized)
- 1 Apple, peeled, cored and chopped (I love Pink Lady)
- 2 tsp Paradise Spice Blend (recipe above)
- 2 c Vegetable Stock (or Chicken stock, if you prefer)
- 2-3 c Water
- 1/2 Lemon, juiced
- Sea Salt, to taste
- 1/8-1/4 tsp Cayenne Pepper
- 1- 14-15oz can Coconut Milk (full fat preferably)
- Heat a large soup pot (at least 4 qt capacity) over medium-high and add coconut oil
- Add onions and garlic and sauté until tender ( about 7-8 min). Season with salt to your taste.
- Add the squash and apple and cook, stirring often, until bubbling. Add 1 tsp of Paradise Spice Blend and stir to incorporate.
- Add stock and 2 cups of the water and return to boil, then reduce heat to low and allow to simmer 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Then use a stick blender and purée the soup until completely smooth (or transfer to a blender and purée in batches and return to the pot).
- Add the lemon juice, the remaining Spice Blend, cayenne and more salt, if needed.
- Pour the coconut milk into a small bowl and use a scraper to get all the good stuff out of the can. Use a whisk to blend the coconut fat back into the thinner liquid to reincorporate it into a smooth, creamy milk, then whisk into the soup until well blended.
- Increase the temperature to bring the soup back to a boil. Add more water if it’s too thick for your desired consistency and adjust seasoning again with more salt if needed.
- Ladle into bowls and sprinkle with Cinnamon if you prefer. Serve immediately and let the remaining portion chill, then properly store until ready to use or freeze.