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Soup of the Day 20111029

This is one of my favourites. It started with a recipe once, but it got adapted along the way to suit what grows well here. Butternut squashes come into season at the end of summer. They're beige, usually shaped like a Bosc pear, but with a variably thick neck, and anywhere from one to ten pounds in weight. The flesh is bright orange and very delicate in flavour. I got an eight-pounder in the CSA box last week, plus two gigantic leeks, so this turned into three gallons of soup.

One thing about my recipes, I don't really use measurements. I think in terms of parts, and it always is innacurate, sometimes wildly so, depending on the size of the say, squash, or carrot, or whatever.

Butternut squash soup

One eighth of one part ginger root
One sixteenth of one part garlic cloves
One part carrot
One part sweet potato
One part floury potato (russet, cherokee, or something like that)
Three parts leeks
Ten to twelve parts butternut squash

Use a heavy-bottomed pot. Clean the leeks (if you're unfamiliar with leeks, this means making sure to slice them from white to green and rinsing out all the sand, clay, insects, and whatever that might have gathered there, trimming off all wilted, brown, or bruised portions). Cut the white part away from the green and put aside. Chop the green part finely into slices or small bits.

Fry the leek greens and crushed garlic and finely diced ginger root in butter on medium until tender, turning so as not to burn any part. Sprinkle with flour, let the flour absorb the butter and cook until light tan, then douse with a volume of chicken or vegetable stock roughly equal to the volume of your butternut squash. Turn the heat up to high, stirring occasionally

While that comes to a boil, chop the carrot and sweet potato and half of the potato, and one quarter of the butternut squash medium-fine and add to the soup.

When these vegetables are tender, use a hand mixer or blender to smooth the mixture and grind up any tough part of the leek. It may become thick. Add about as much water as the current volume of soup. Add a generous amount of salt, depending on your taste. Bring to a simmer and turn back down to medium.

Dice the remaining buttercup and potato into .5 in/1cm cubes and add to the soup. Let it cook gently. Meanwhile add some thyme or savoury and a bay leaf and a big spoonful of honey.

Now there are two variants. One vaguely asian, the other vaguely european. For the european version, add a healthy amount of cream, crême fraiche, or sour cream and a couple of glugs of brandy. For the asian version, add a a glug of soy sauce, fish sauce, and a gentle portion of curry spices*.

When the cubes of squash soften and lose their square shape, the soup is ready. Serve it with a sprinkle of slivered/sliced almonds on top.

*I make up a big batch of squash curry spice which is roughly:

One part black pepper
One part cloves
Two parts cinnamon stick
Two parts mustard seed
Three parts turmeric seed
Four parts cumin seed
Four parts coriander seed

Toast all for a minute or two on a hot pan, then grind up. I use a coffee grinder that's been set aside just for that reason, since it won't make good coffee after that. Well, maybe good, just not the customary flavour.