Squash Garam Masala Soup by Caitlin
Soup is a perfect recipe to start improvising with your ingredients, because unlike a baking project where precise measurements are important, it is much more forgiving when you just make it with what you have on hand. I would never run out to the store before making this soup because I didn’t have one of the ingredients. The key to good soup making is understanding what substitutions you can make and I’ve given lots of different options, while also letting you know the way I usually make it.
First, you can change the type of aromatics you sauté at the start without any harm to the final taste of the soup. If you only have carrots, then the soup becomes a delicious Squash Carrot Soup. Have some leeks or shallots, but no onions- sounds like a good substitution. No olive oil? Use butter, or whatever neutral oil you have around. Only 2 cups of stock in a corner of your fridge that needs to be used? That’s fine, just add a splash more of your apple cider and make up the remainder with water, as long as you have a total of 5 ½- 6 cups liquid, this soup will taste great.
Second, as you change the amount of spice in the soup, the character of the soup will change as well. One teaspoon of Garam Malsala gives you a soup with a gentle warmness and only a hint of something exotic… a full on 1 tablespoon of Indian spice mix creates an assertive bold soup, telling in your mouth to add a big dollop of yogurt to your bowl and bring some samosas and chutney to the table.
Finally, you can be experimental with the garnishes. A dollop yogurt, white spirals swirled through bright orange soup is nice, but other additions, like cilantro, some nuts or pumpkin seeds or quick croutons (toss some bread in oil and toast in the oven at 350 for around 10 minutes) can be added, all changing the taste of the soup until it’s exactly right for you!
Inspired by an article on cooking without recipes in Fine Cooking feb/march 2009
2 tb olive oil
1 cup thinly sliced carrot, sliced crosswise
1 cup diced onion, about half of a medium onion (or shallot or leeks)
½-¾ cup thinly sliced celery
1 tb minced fresh ginger
1 tsp to 1 TB Garam Masala*
½ tsp kosher salt
4 cups chicken broth
1 ½ cups water
3 tb non- alcoholic apple cider [or use white wine, apple juice or orange juice]
2 lb butternut squash (about two regular sized ones)
freshly ground pepper
1½ tb lemon juice (add in ½ tb increments to taste)
¼ cup thick plain yogurt (optional)
½ cup chopped cilantro (optional)
*I usually use 1-1. 5 tsp Garam Masala unless I want a very Indian tasting soup, a soup that can be overpowering to people not accustomed to Indian spices! Also your brand of Garam Masala may vary in strength and taste. The one I use (in the recipe pictures) is easy to find at grocery stores with an ethnic section. Keep in mind that Garam Masala just means "hot/intense mixture” in Hindi… so start with a little and add more. It usually includes lots of cumin and along with cinnamon, pepper and cardomon. But, it’s the kind of thing where every Indian mother/cook has their own masala recipe and they are all a little different! I do sometimes make Garam Masala from scratch with whole spices, but you don’t need to in this recipe. Finally, you can substitute 1 tsp of ground cumin and a few extra grinds of pepper or just omit the Garam Masala entirely if you don’t have it.
onions, celery, and a pinch of kosher salt. Stir well and cook, stirring occasionally, until the
aromatics are softened, 8 to 10 minutes.
To serve, ladle into bowls and garnish each serving with 1 to 2 tsp. chopped cilantro and about a tablespoon of yogurt swirled through in the center of each bowl. A few salted pumpkin seeds called out to me when serving the soup today and they added a nice crunch.