I T ‘ S S O U P S E A S O N !
It hasn’t even been terribly cold yet and I am already in the routine of having my teapot/mug within arm’s reach. I know I will regret saying this later (like mid-January when I have to walk to work in a blizzard), but I love when the weather gets cooler. Sliding around the kitchen in my slippers. Baking cookies and treats, because you need something to go with all those cups of tea. Feeling inspired to cook again, as during the summer I am usually too hot to feel like going anywhere near the stove, and I get way more creative with fall/winter produce and the assorted beans/grains in our cupboards. I love soups, stews, casseroles, trays of roasted veg, hearty meals that leave you feeling warm and snuggly so you can lay on the couch wrapped in blankets, read a book, and listen to Miles Davis.
Right now all my body wants is hot bowls of food and baked goods, and I am obliging in the form of soup and homemade sourdough (because who needs a spoon when you have bread?). I have missed my weekend routine of making bread, which is yet another reason to be grateful the days of 35C + humidex are behind us.
Despite finding happiness with spending more time in the kitchen, there are some tasks I will never enjoy, one of them being peeling squash. The beauty of this soup is that you don’t have to peel it since the skin separates easily after its stint in the oven (the seeds are easier to scoop out too). Zhoug is a spicy herby paste with origins in Yemen and contrasts the sweet roasted butternut squash really well. It’s also super easy to make and since you only need a few spoonfuls, you can keep the rest in the fridge or freezer next time you wanna add some zing to your protein/grain salad/salad dressing/roasted veg/y’know.
butternut squash soup with zhoug (vegetarian, vegan, gluten free)
1.3 kg butternut squash
heaping 2 cups sliced onion
4 cloves minced garlic (1 1/2 tablespoons)
1 1/2 teaspoons whole cumin seeds
1 1/2 teaspoons whole coriander seeds
1/2 teaspoon chili flakes
salt and pepper
2 teaspoons tamari
3 cups veg stock
1/2 cup cashews, soaked in hot water (+ 1/2 cup water to blend)
water as needed to thin
optional: goat/sheep’s milk feta
Preheat the oven to 400F (fan). Cut the squash in half lengthwise, brush lightly with a little bit of oil, then place face down on a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake for about 40 minutes until tender and starting to caramelize. While the squash is baking, start cooking the onions in a pot over low heat with a splash of oil. Stir occasionally, cooking them until they’re soft and sweet (about 20-25 minutes). Add the garlic and cook for another 5 minutes.
Bash the cumin and coriander in a mortar and pestle, then add to the pot with the chili flakes, salt, pepper, tamari, and cinnamon. Add the cooked squash (removed from the skin) and stir everything to coat, then add the stock and bring to a simmer. Meanwhile drain the soaked cashews, then add to a high speed blender with 1/2 cup water and blend until smooth (remove a few teaspoons for topping the soup if you want). Remove the soup from the heat and add to the blender, pureeing in batches until smooth. Add more salt and pepper if needed.
Add all the zhoug ingredients to a food processor or mortar and pestle, and pulse/bash until everything is combined but still very textured. Swirl cashew cream and zhoug on top of soup, adding feta if not vegan.