Saturday, 9 November 2013

Winter Squash Soup

I realized recently that I have not posted anything on this blog for three weeks because of so much going on with my kids, my job and my family. I thought autumn was a time to slow down in preparation for the long winter months ahead?

My spirit may come alive with summer, but I think autumn is my favourite season. The smell of the crisp air on an autumn morning should be bottled up to enjoy all year long. I never tire of the changing colours of the leaves that make the walk to school with my girls an adventure. Around each corner is a new sight that I feel compelled to capture with my camera and post on Instagram. We have had an unseasonably dry fall and this has been a bonus for outside time, but in some ways I miss the typical Raincover that can feel like a hug from an old friend. That's not to say that we haven't had some epic rainfalls recently that have temporarily flooded streets. The extended period of foggy days in October were wonderful while they lasted, with the eerie fog horns bellowing on the Fraser River.

With the change of seasons I have been delighted to get out my knitting needles and try some new projects. I call myself an advanced beginner who is still getting used to all the possibilities of knitting in the round. The couch blankets have also made their return to the tv room, along with my favourite pair of slippers.

Even though life with three busy daughters, a job and volunteering has taken over my time recently, I have tried to find the time to continue to make as many of our meals from scratch as I can. On this eco journey that I am traveling I try to make as many homemade meals as possible to avoid needless packaging and additives. Of course this can be a challenge when life gets out of control with commitments, as it has recently.

One of my favourite fall foods is soup. Prior to marriage and kids I made huge pots of soup all the time, freezing them into single serve portions, making an easy quick meal for a single person living alone. My husband enjoys soup but not in the same way I do, and my children are definitely not open to some of the more adventuresome soups I enjoy making. I love making soup because it is so easy.

Winter squash soup is a must as far as I am concerned, and I have made it with pumpkin, acorn squash and butternut squash. This time I made it with kabocha squash, which is a Japanese "pumpkin." We had roasted kabocha squash for one of our Thanksgiving dishes and I enjoyed it so much I bought another. It has a lovely soft orange colour that I think makes for a pretty bowl of soup.

one winter squash (your choice of kabocha, acorn, butternut, pumpkin), roasted
one medium cooking onion, chopped
several cloves of garlic, chopped finely
one inch section of ginger (approx), chopped finely
salt and pepper to taste
one to two tablespoons of butter (can substitute with olive oil or coconut oil)
a handful of corriander seeds, toasted and ground
one to two cups of whole milk or cream (add to achieve desired creaminess and thickness)
fresh cilantro as garnish (optional)

To soften the squash, which ever variety is used, I roast it at 400 degrees F (200 C) in the oven for approximately thirty minutes until it is to the desired softness (I like browned bits on mine). Sometimes I roast it in wedges with the outside left on.

A must in any soup, or any meal as far as I am concerned, are onions and garlic. For winter squash soup I like to add ginger for a delicious zestiness,  sauté everything with butter for richness. If you are afraid of butter I urge you to do some reading about the benefits of butter. I have also used coconut oil but for this soup I wanted the flavour of butter. I suppose olive oil could be substituted but in my humble opinion fall and winter soups should be made with butter.

I like to make my own soup stock because of the rich flavour and overall health and eco benefits. If I use my own stock I do not need to add salt or pepper as it has already been seasoned to my preferences. In a rush, however, I use organic stock from the store. Pour the stock in with the browned onion mixture and add the roasted squash. At this point I would add salt or pepper to taste.

While the soup is simmering I toast coriander seeds harvested from my summer garden, then grind them with a mortar and pestle to release the aromatic flavours. With the ginger, garlic, onions and corriander added to the soup the kitchem smells amazing at this point.

I let this simmer on a medium low heat until it is starting to bubble, then I use a hand held blender and pulse the soup until it is smooth and creamy in appearance. The soup can be eaten at this point but I like to add some milk or cream to add to the smooth texture of the soup. I like to pulse with the hand held blender once more.

Before enjoying, I like to add some fresh cilantro from my fall garden to go with the coriander seeds.

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