This soup has been simmering on my stove about a half a dozen times now. Substantial and hearty in all the much-needed ways a soup should be, especially this time of year — and fully capable of taking away those winter blahs. It’s been something I’ve been meaning to share, yet needed to take a long moment of pause just before 2016 came rolling in. You know how life sometimes has you going off the beaten path? Yeah, that.
School stuff, medical stuff and a whole bunch of other stuff had this Mama needing to unwind a bit from an intense couple of months. I’m learning to embrace a enjoy living in the moment mentality.
Have you seen Grease Live? (I must have seen the original twenty times and wish I kept the vinyl.) Saw it twice already. I remember begging my Mom as a kid for Sandy’s shiny skin-tight pants so I can be as cool as her, but no, that never happened… too bad I already had the hair (!).
I’m also reading Anne Lamott’s Small Victories: Spotting Improbable Moments of Grace, as well as flipping through my new stack of cookbooks for some new food vibes (NOPI – Ottolenghi’s Middle Eastern, Hartwood – Yucatán, Mexico, Balaboosta – Middle Eastern, At home in the whole food kitchen – Vegetarian, and Simple Thai food – Thai). I want to explore different cultures this year. Small Victories is a good read about perspective and how to see victories even in hardships – something I’m definitely holding onto and working on keeping in view this year.
Also, want this year to be about new ingredients that pack a nutritional punch and new techniques (did also get the Food Lab cookbook filled with loads of techniques and answers to all the whys in the kitchen while entertaining my geeky food science side). Not one to make resolutions, per se, more like aspirations. Resolutions stress me out; when I did make them, ages ago, all I would think about was the restriction, nothing else.
So! About this soup.
I’ve used powdered turmeric for years, but never traveled over to the fresh knobs in the produce aisle, so I had no clue how to use it. Searching using fresh turmeric – my new ingredient, I came across Jamie Oliver’s chicken laksa. His recipe looked delicious, but I had a meat-free soup in mind this time around. I added red lentils for protein and left out the rice noodles since I didn’t have any, and even so, I can’t imagine both in one soup. Maybe, if my metabolism would let me.
I should tell you, even without noodles it is quite filling and has plenty of character.
Fresh turmeric has a more pungent flavor – earthy with a little bitterness to it. Nothing to rave about on its’ own but with the round up of ingredients in here it goes from eww, what is that to ooh, I like that. More on fresh vs. dried here. Red lentils do not hold shape as well as green, black or brown lentils, but that was the point with this soup; perfect for thickening soups, stews, curries or dal while adding a good source of protein. They are also sweeter than green and brown lentils – not to be confused with red split peas – and can be found in health food stores these days, in addition to Indian or Middle Eastern markets.
There are many layers to this soup to satisfy your taste buds … first with butternut squash then ginger, chili, turmeric, and lime coming through all at once, followed by some maple sweetness with a whole bunch of chunky lentil soup goodness. It’s just heavenly.
The other ingredients in the long, but not-to-be-dismissed list round out the soup flavor – you don’t really notice they’re there, but when taken out it just isn’t the same, you know? The tropical-ness flavor of coconut doesn’t lend itself much in the soup, rather more for creaminess. If you don’t care for garlic you can certainly do without – though it doesn’t really give any “garlicky” flavor to the soup. I add it in for the anti-bacterial properties because, heck, why not?
Stay warm and get your soup on. Enjoy.
- 3-4 tablespoons oil (I use avocado or grape seed oil)
- 1 large butternut squash (about 6 cups), peeled and diced into 1-inch thick cubes (or use pre-cut squash)
- 1 small onion, peeled and diced
- 1 can full-fat coconut milk
- 4 cups organic vegetable or chicken stock
- 4 cups water
- 1½ cups red lentils
- 1 2-inch knob fresh turmeric, peeled
- 1 2-inch knob fresh ginger, peeled
- 5 cloves of garlic
- 5 scallions, trimmed ends and roughly chopped
- 1 fresh red chili (or more if you like spicy - I used serrano), end removed
- 3 limes, juiced
- 1 bunch fresh cilantro, divided
- 2 tablespoons fish sauce
- 2 tablespoons coconut teriyaki sauce (sold in health food stores or online) or GF teriyaki if soy tolerant
- 2 tablespoons sesame oil
- ¼ cup pure maple syrup (preferably grade B for it’s richer flavor)
- In a large stockpot or dutch oven set over medium-high heat oil and sauté diced onions until opaque and lightly browned, then add diced butternut squash. Toss around to combine with the onions and oil and stir occasionally to prevent the squash on the bottom from burning. Cook for another 10 minutes or until squash has softened. Then add canned coconut milk, broth, water, and red lentils, stir to combine. Reduce heat to medium and cover.
- Meanwhile, combine ginger, turmeric, garlic, scallions, red chili, lime juice, ¾ bunch cilantro (reserve rest for serving), fish sauce, coconut teriyaki sauce, and sesame oil into a food processor or blender and pulse until it looks like a paste. Gently stir in the paste and continue to cook (covered) on a low boil for another 20-25 minutes. The lentils should be very soft and appear mushy. Then add maple syrup, stir to combine well. Remove from heat. Chop up remaining cilantro and sprinkle into the soup before serving. Serve hot.
- Some Notes:
- Turmeric stains skin and clothing. It will come off after a few hand washing - best to wear gloves if handling turmeric before a night out. I notice that peeling ginger after turmeric helps fade the yellow stain on my fingers.
- I don’t add the maple syrup in earlier in the cooking process because it will make the soup too sweet and take away from all the bright flavors in here.
- This soup can be made in advance, with flavors becoming deeper every day. Should you make this a couple of days in advance, yet don’t like spicy food, try anaheim chili (milder than serrano) seeds removed and a little less ginger.
- Also freezer-friendly.
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