This is a chunky, stick-to-your ribs vegetable soup that’s perfect for a cold winter day. It’s not chile pepper hot, just loaded with spices. I start by dicing butternut squash with the skin on, which adds a rustic texture to the soup and keeps the squash from completely falling apart. I use lard to sauté the squash, onion, celery, and carrot so you get a little pork flavor. You could use bacon fat instead. The fat helps to caramelize the vegetables in the pan, creating a deep, savory flavor. The spices are basically warm Indian spices along with some Espelette pepper for heat and pomegranate molasses adds some acidity and sweetness. Look for it in Middle Eastern grocery stores and online. Or make it at home by juicing some pomegranates and boiling down the juice until it’s syrupy, like thin honey.
Feeds 8 to 10 hungry folks
Butternut squash - 2 tall boy–sized, about 3 ½ pounds total
Lard or bacon grease - ¼ cup
Onion - 1 softball-size, cut into ¾-inch dice
Celery - 3 ribs, cut into ¾-inch dice
Salt - 2 tablespoons
Carrot - 1 huge one, peeled and cut into ¾-inch dice
Masala punjabi chole curry - 2 tablespoons
Sumatra ground cinnamon - 1 teaspoon
No-salt chicken stock - 5 ½ cups
Sherry vinegar - 1 tablespoon
Lemon juice - 2 teaspoons
Pomegranate molasses - 2 tablespoons
1. Trim the ends from the squash and cut in half lengthwise. Scrape
out and discard the pulp and seeds and chop the squash into bite-size
chunks. You’ll have about 12 cups. And, yes, you leave the skin on.
2. Melt the lard in a 4-quart Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Layer
the vegetables and salt in the pot in the following order: onion first, then
celery, then 1 tablespoon of the salt, then the squash, and finally the
carrot. Let the mixture cook until the vegetables on the bottom start
to brown, about 5 minutes. Then vigorously stir with a wooden spoon,
scraping up all the browned bits and stirring them into the mixture. Let
cook undisturbed for another 5 minutes, then scrape up the brown bits
and stir them into the mixture. Continue cooking and scraping up the
brown bits every 5 minutes until the squash is tender, about 15 minutes
total. This process creates deep flavor. Don’t rush it!
3. Stir in the curry and cinnamon to coat the vegetables. Add 4 cups of
the stock and bring the mixture to a boil. Cut the heat down so that the
liquid simmers and let simmer for 20 minutes, stirring now and then.
Stir in the vinegar, lemon juice, the remaining 1 tablespoon salt, and the
remaining 1 ½ cups stock; simmer for another 10 minutes.
4. Serve in warm bowls and drizzle with some pomegranate molasses.
Masala Punjabi Chole Curry – This is one of my favorite spice blends from the Dekalb Farmers Market in Atlanta, Georgia. If you can’t get your hands on this particular blend, substitute 1 tablespoon + 2 teaspoons Madras curry powder mixed with another ½ teaspoon of Sumatra cinnamon.