A smooth, delicious soup that captures the flavors of fall. You can use any combination of winter squash, sweet potatoes or yams. It can easily be made vegetarian or vegan.
About 4 or 5 pounds total of any combination of squash, sweet potatoes, or yams. After roasting, peeling and de-seeding (depending on the variety), you should have about 3.5 pounds. If you end up with more, no big deal, you can make a bigger batch of soup.
1 medium onion, chopped
About 6 to 8 fresh sage leaves (optional)
3 tablespoons butter or olive oil for sautéing the onions, plus extra oil for brushing on the squash.
½ teaspoon each: nutmeg, ground coriander seeds, ground cinnamon, ground cumin
¼ teaspoon each: ground allspice, ground cardamom, ground cloves, ground ginger
Salt and pepper to taste
About 4 cups chicken stock, vegetable stock, or water (or a combination)
1 teaspoon of angostura bitters (optional – see notes below)
Garnishes: Snipped chives, toasted pepitas, or bread croutons
Yields about 8 to 12 servings, depending on the size of your soup bowls.
Bake the squash, sweet potatoes, and/or yams. Split the squash, and brush it with oil so that it does not dry out in the oven. Sprinkle with a bit of salt and pepper. (I find that cooking the squash first, and then removing the seeds, is easiest. But you can remove the seeds and stringy matter before baking.) Pierce the sweet potatoes/yams. Bake everything in a 375-degree oven until done, about 1 hour (start checking at about 45 minutes). They’re done when a knife goes in easily. If smaller pieces are cooked before the larger pieces, remove them so they don’t burn. Let cool. Remove the skins and the seeds, then roughly chop everything so it’s in manageable chunks.
Cook the onions and the spices. In a sauté pan, sauté the onions in the butter (or olive oil) until the onions are soft and translucent (just before the stage where they begin to brown). Add the sage leaves, and all the spices and cook for 30 seconds or until the sage leaves begin to brown and the spices are fragrant.
Puree the onions with some of the stock. In a blender or food processor, puree the onion-spice mixture with a cup or two of water or stock. Strain so that the solid onion matter is left behind, pressing on the residue in the strainer to extract as much as the liquid as possible. Discard the solid residue (or use it for something else).
Return the onion liquid to the blender, and puree it with the chunks of cooked squash/yam/sweet-potato. You may need to do this in batches, depending on the size of your blender. Make sure you puree it long enough so that it is completely smooth. Add more stock or water as necessary so that you end up with a well-blended, silky puree that is thicker than tomato soup, but not so thick that a spoon will stand up in it. You may not end up using all the stock, or you may need more – it depends on how watery the vegetables are. Place the puree in a large pot and simmer for 15 minutes (or until heated through). Turn off the heat and stir in the optional angostura bitters.
Garnish each bowl with snipped chives, pepitas, or bread croutons. Store leftovers in the refrigerator. The flavor improves overnight because the spices have had a chance to mellow and meld. This soup can be frozen in ziploc bags or airtight containers.
Notes, Photos, and Backstory
I like to use a combination of hard winter squashes, yams, and sweet potatoes, depending on what looks good at the market. You can use a single variety (butternut works well) depending on what flavor profile you want. Other options include: acorn squash, turban squash, pie pumpkin, kabocha, garnet yams, and the Japanese varieties of sweet potatoes/yams.
This recipe can be made vegan by using olive oil in place of butter, and vegetable stock or water in place of the chicken stock.
This recipe calls for a lot of spices. You can play around with spice combinations and amounts, and see what you prefer.
Angostura bitters are an old herbal tonic used in cocktails. They can be found in the cocktail-mixer section of the supermarket. I love the subtle flavors that the bitters impart, but they are optional.
Here you can see the butternut squash and the yams that have been roasted together on a half-sheet pan. I find it is easier to remove seeds and stringy matter after the squash is roasted.
This is a close-up of the soup, garnished with roasted pepitas and chives. I love the crunchiness of the roasted pepitas as a contrast to the smooth soup.
Backstory. I came up with this recipe when my children were small. I wanted to make a soup that I could serve from a hollowed-out pumpkin. A squash-based soup was a natural choice for that, since pumpkins are a type of squash. The kids were delighted with soup-in-a-pumpkin, and they'd request it every Halloween. The soup itself was scrumptious, and there were no admonishments to “finish all your soup.” I’ve tinkered with this recipe through the years, experimenting with spice combinations, the addition of breadcrumbs, etc. This latest version is, in my opinion, the most delicious and the easiest method.