Wednesday, September 23, 2015

A Peek Inside Old Mother Hubbard's Cupboard- Indian squash soup

Old Mother Hubbard has a cupboard full of Hubbard. Hubbard squash that is. If you have never seen one, they are GIANT things, my favorite variety being the big Blue Hubbard. The first time I saw one I was in awe of this gorgeous unique looking vegetable. There is an apple orchard not too far from the Little Lake House and it was on a tourism day for work that I visited, an they had a huge display of many different kinds of pumpkins, gourds and squash, but the big Blue Hubbard really stood out, and I had to have one.

A few smaller blue Hubbards among pumpkins and
other winter squash squash is a lot. I spent the better part of an entire day cutting up, seeding, peeling, and cubing that monster. It had to be a good forty pounder. I ended up with over 20 quarts of canned squash cubes. Twenty quarts is a lot of squash to make other foods out of. I didn't just have the Hubbard- I'm not that smart. I left the orchard that day with the back of my SUV full of Hubbard, butternut, Celebration, turban-type, acorn, Delicata, pumpkins and of course, apples so I have tons to work with. Home canned squash is very tender and works best in recipes that call for a puree. Baked goods such as bread and cakes, pies, soups, puddings- all delicious options for using squash. We have been on a soup kick since embracing the home baked bread idea and, well, we have all that squash and hopefully we can use some of it before our upcoming move away from the lake. No one wants to pack, load, unload and unpack heavy quart jars of squash......

I think next to the pumpkins and other squash, you can
get an idea of the enormity of this Hubbard.
Besides making bread at home, learning new cuisines and food cultures has been a goal of mine, and especially exotic things like Indian flavors. I've stocked up on many new spices used in Indian cooking, and now want to try them out. So many incredible flavors make up any given Indian dish. Learning to make tandoori chicken was a crash course in spices. Lots of chilies are used in Indian cooking, from mild to mouth-scorching hot. Ajwain is a pungent seed that flavors stir fried vegetables wonderfully. Cardamom, peppercorns, cumin, celery seed, fenugreek leaves and seeds, mints, mustards, ginger, cloves, cinnamon- the list goes on and on. Some add a savory element, some add color, some heat, some an herbaceous quality. The sweetness of squash is the perfect background for creating an interesting mural of flavors.

In researching my Indian flavors I did come across a great blog featuring "How To Build an Indian Pantry". Click HERE to visit.

Now let's talk about spices. Indian spices are so perfect and beautiful on their own, combined in blends they take on a whole new dimension. Complexity, flavor, some with heat, some sweet, most are a true test for the palate- what exactly IS that in there?  This soup uses garam masala which is  a Northern Indian blend. Garam tells us it's a "hot" spice, but rather than hot pepper burn your face off heat, it refers to the intensity. Normally this mixture contains turmeric, white and black pepper, cloves, cinnamon, cardamom pods and cumin seeds,all ground together. You might find nutmeg, mace, star anise and allspice in there as well. In terms of Indian spices- the more the merrier! Toasting the spices really brings out the aromatic qualities and flavors in the spices.

Let's make some Indian Spiced Squash Soup. You will need-
  • 4 cups pureed cooked Hubbard or other winter squash
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons garam masala
  • 3/4 cup canned coconut milk (NOT cream of coconut)
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • Herb Oil (recipe follows)
Heat the olive oil in a deep stockpot. Saute the onion until softened and translucent. Add the garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes. Don't let the garlic brown. Add the garam masala and stir, cooking another couple minutes to bring out the aromas of the spices.

Add the squash, coconut milk and broth to pot. Mix well. Cover and simmer for about an hour. Puree the finished soup with an immersion blender (or CAREFULLY in batches in blender). Serve drizzled with a little Herb Oil.

Herb Oil
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup parsley leaves
  • pinch of salt and pepper
Buzz in mini food processor til smooth. Use any leftovers in salad dressings, marinades or chimichurri.

This soup is perfect on a chilly, rainy fall day, and even better if you have a fresh from the oven loaf of crusty bread to go alongside. The Indian spices bring a warm feeling to the smooth creamy soup. Give this recipe a try!

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