Every time of year brings memories of a few dishes with it that we all quietly pine for. Autumn and butternut squash is that mystical combo for my wife and I. In general, butternut squash soup is a pretty simple and straightforward thing, but to keep this from becoming something we grow tired of, I like to change it up every time I make it. In this case, I wanted a light starter as a prelude to a bigger dinner, but still something big and bold on flavor.
This soup was a delicious way to start a meal. It looks deceptively simple (like any other butternut squash soup), but has a surprisingly complex flavor. The pear added an almost unnameable but distinct tangy sweetness while the peppers and assortment of spices lent an incredibly full flavored back drop to the whole experience. I didn’t want to stick with the usual assortment of “pumpkin pie spices” that seem so beaten to death at this time of year, instead tilting things more towards an Indian set of flavors, adding things like cardamom, cumin, saffron, etc on top of the usual suspects (cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg). I was very pleased with how cohesively all of these flavors married together and especially so with the fact that every bowl came back clean.
- 2 large squash (i had 4 small ones)
- 1 leek
- 1 carrot
- 1 celery
- 2 hot peppers
- 6 cups chicken or vegetable stock
- 3 green cardamom pods
- 1 black cardamom pod
- 2 cloves
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 3 bay leaf
- 1/4 tsp cumin seeds
- small bunch of thyme
- 1 ripe pear
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
Begin by roasting the squash. Cut in half, scoop out the seeds and stringy bits, and then rub all over with butter. Season with salt and pepper before putting (cut-side up) in a 400°F oven for 45 minutes, give or take 15 minutes (or however long is required to get the squash fork-tender).
While the squash roasts, crush the whole spices (coarsely) and toss them in a pot with 1 cup of the stock (along with the fresh thyme and saffron). Raise this to a boil and drop to a very low simmer. The goal is to extract a lot of the flavor from the spices into the liquid.
While the squash cools down, dice up the leek, carrot, celery, and peppers. Sauté them in melted butter in a large pot for ~10 minutes. Deglaze the pan with the remaining stock (not your spice-infused stock which is still simmering).
Finally, scoop out the roasted butternut squash flesh into the pot. Get things actively simmering for a few minutes and then puree this mixture very well with a blender. Pour the spice infused stock through a strainer into the pot, mix well, and continue to simmer for 15 minutes. While you wait, skin, core, and chop up the pear. Add this into the pot, blend to a fine puree, add the cream, and take a taste, adjusting the seasoning as necessary. If you find the soup too thick for your liking, add a bit more stock at this point.
Once its all done, ladle out a few bowls and enjoy!