by Jessica Shepherd
Chilly outside? What’s that, your nose is cold and your cheeks are too?–Ahh, then today is surely a day for a warming bowl of soup!
During the winter season a steamy aromatic bowl of soup comforts, warms, and always hits the spot! What I love about soup is that it’s a very convenient and tasty way to “eat your medicine” either by incorporating herbs, seaweeds, and medicinal mushrooms right in the mix; or by infusing your desired herbs and roots into your soup base broths (or some of us Herbalist’s like to do both!). I look forward to this recipe being the start of my soup sharing with you!!!
This time of year we are blessed to have an abundant supply of winter squash available from local organic farms in the area (thank you Farmer’s!) and I can’t help but walk by butternut squash at the market and feel inspired for soup making!!! Apparently someone out there has even deemed January as National Soup Month—who come’s up with these?—hooray for another reason to celebrate soup!
Roasted Butternut Squash and Red Bell’s Coconut Curry Soup
This soup recipe is one I and those friend’s I have shared a bowl with– (you know who you are!!) just can’t seem to get tired of. At first taste its classic sweet creamy butternut squash, rounded off by the roasted red bell pepper and aromatic parsnip, to segue into the caramelized onion and garlic flavors that finish off with a generous hit of warming aromatic curry and a kick of spice (long description I know, but it gets the ole’ taste-buds activated!). Yum!
Here’s what you’ll need
2 medium to large sized butternut squash
2 large red bell peppers
1 medium parsnip
4-5 cloves of garlic
1 tbsp. chopped fresh ginger root
½ medium sized yellow onion
4 cups of soup stock or veggie broth
1 can of lite coconut milk
2 tbsp. red curry paste (optional)
2-3 generous tablespoons of Curry Powder (or whatever blend you make or prefer I share my recipe below so please keep reading!)
1-2 tbsp. of olive oil
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly oil a cookie sheet or roasting pan. Peel the squash, scoop out seeds, and cut into halves. Then lightly brush some olive oil on them and put on your roasting pan or cookie sheet along with the parsnip which I leave whole.
Cut the red bell’s in half and lightly brush them with oil–set them aside for now as they don’t take as much time to roast as the squash does. So now, put the squash and lone parsnip in the oven to roast for about 50 min. or more if needed, until the squash is nice and soft—and you can easily poke a fork into it. After about 20-30 minutes of roasting the squash and lone parsnip, add the red bell’s to the roasting pan for the remaining 15-20 minutes or so of cooking time.
Meanwhile, get your soup pot (or cauldron) out and fill it with broth and coconut milk bring it to a simmer then turn heat to low. Next in a cast iron skillet on medium heat, sautee’ your chopped onion, ginger, and garlic until nice and lightly caramelized, then add those to your pot-o-broth and whisk in your curry blend and paste (if using), salt and pepper, stir again and put the lid on. When the squash, bell’s, and parsnip are done roasting you can let them cool just a bit and chop them into smaller quarters for blending, or just leave them as they are if your blender can handle it, then transfer them on into the amazing curry broth you have going on the stovetop…..
Now this is when I get out my trusty hand-held emulsion blender and begin the blending process slow and steady blending everything down to desired level of creaminess, I like to be able to see flecks of red from the bells everywhere. You can of course use your trusty blender for this job too, just transfer small amounts at a time and be careful to secure the lid and be cautious with the hot liquid soup.
After blending everything, give it a final “stirring of the pot” and take a little taste test–adjust salt, pepper, and curry belnd to taste. Also at this point, pause for a second to enjoy the air of your kitchen which is filled with a dancing blend of warming, pungent aromatics with a touch of sweet, all working to get the digestive juices stirring for warm yummy soup!
If you desire to add more of the curry blend, I prefer to whisk it in to ensure mixing it throughout the soup. Serve it up and Enjoy!
Speaking of curry…—yes, I make my own spice blend when it comes to that. Making your own blend is not only easy, affordable, and empowering its also a perfect opportunity to interact with these amazing spices—their vibrant colors, complex aromatics, and array of flavors are waiting for you to come get creative and play! And of course the added bonus they offer is their medicinal benefits–I will highlight a few of those healing spices at the end of the post so stick with me! There are so many recipes out there for curry blend’s it’s incredible–you can always start there for inspiration, and eventually create your own culinary blend.
And I’m happy to share with you my herb-n-spice-lovin’ friend’s, my very own “Mellow Yellow Curry” recipe to try (if anyone wants to swap recipes I always love trying new blends too!!!) Of course, this soup can be made with your favorite herb-store bought curry spice blend too! If I had to recommend one I would surely try Humboldt Herbals Seven Seas Curry blend—they grind it down from whole spices and prepare it in small artisan batches using organic ingredients.
Jessica’s Mellow Yellow Curry Blend
This recipe yields approx. 2 (4 oz.) spice jars–1 for you and 1 for a friend!
1/2 cup Coriander seed, whole
1/4 cup Cumin seed, whole
1/8 cup Celery seed, whole
1 tablespoon Black Peppercorns, whole
1 teaspoon Cardamom seed, whole
1/4 cup Turmeric root powder
1 tablespoon Chili Flakes
1 teaspoon Clove powder
1 tablespoon true Cinnamon powder (common cinnamon cassia will work too!)
Take all of the whole ingredients (Coriander, Celery seed, Peppercorn, Chili flake, Cardamom seed, Cumin seed) and gently dry-roast them in a cast iron pan for a few minutes (up to about 10min.) moving things around with a wooden spoon so the spices don’t brown too much. Then remove and let cool. Next grind the whole roasted spices in your coffee grinder, or heavy-duty mortar and pestle. Finally, take freshly ground spices and add remaining powdered ingredients (Turmeric, Clove, Cinnamon,) and mix them all together into an exotic and aromatic culinary blend!
Jar it up and enjoy not only in the delicious soup recipe above, but also enjoyed: tossed on steamed or roasted veggie’s and taters, can be mixed into cream cheese or greek yogurt for a dip, various curry stews, sprinkled on hard-boiled eggs or egg-salad, chicken, marinades, and more!!
Here are some highlights of just a few of the healing properties of Coriander, Cumin, and Turmeric three of the main ingredients in this curry blend.
Coriander seed (Coriandrum sativum): Sweet, nutty, taste with an edge of lemon, orange, and sage. It is also bitter and pungent and aids the digestive process and the appetite. It eases indigestion, gas, and bloating, stomach cramps and spasms, and general tummy aches. Aids in decreasing blood sugar levels, helps decrease bad cholesterol (“LDL”) and increase good cholesterol (“HDL”). Offers liver protective anti-oxidants that protect the liver from damage, while also being able to repair and regenerate the liver. Has diuretic properties and has been used for the urinary tract. Also has been utilized for insomnia, anxiety, as a sedative and muscle relaxant. Coriander is a valued key ingredient in practically all forms of curry spice blends.
Turmeric root (Curcuma longa): Bitter, astringent, mildly pungent, and warming (also termed as “hot”). Quite the well known potent anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant these days. There seems to be plenty of information circulating out there regarding this golden-orange roots benefit’s and proven efficacy, and also the many forms available on the market today (capsules, softgels, tinctures etc.). At a glance, Turmeric has a history of being used for aiding digestion, assimilation of nutrients, and for stimulating bile which aids in the breakdown of dietary fats and hence, this root also has cholesterol lowering properties. It has been known to protect the gallbladder and worked with to prevent gallstones or added to a gallstone supportive formula. Turmeric also protects and strengthens the liver helping with liver ailments including hepatitis, and jaundice, also assisting hormonal imbalances like PMS; and skin problems like eczema, psoriasis, and acne. Used as a stimulant to improve blood circulation and as an analgesic to relieve headache. As a potent anti-inflammatory it has been used for arthritis and other inflammatory conditions body-wide. Much of the buzz around turmeric makes mention of its having curcumin–one of the active properties found in the root and its what makes turmeric yellow. Curcumin has been widely researched and its many anti-oxidant properties are attributed to it, but it is the whole broad spectrum makeup of this plant that delivers healing, not just one isolate of it (opinion varies there, but this is what I believe with all of my heart). Because of its antioxidant action it is considered the “anti-cancer spice” as it can fight cancer on various levels and is able to: inhibit the activation of genes that trigger cancer, inhibit the spread of tumor cells, kill cells that mutate into cancer, shrink tumor cells, prevent tumors from spreading to other organs, and can enhance the cancer-destroying effects of chemotherapy and radiation; in addition it also shows promise for alzheimer’s disease as it can bind to amyloid-A which is a protein that if not properly broken down and eliminated, can clump together hardening into a plaque that blocks neural activity and causes a host of neurological problems. It can also slow oxidative damage to neurons; reduce damage to neural synapses, and also reduce levels of toxic metal’s in the brain. Turmeric is a key ingredient in curry and is what gives it that bright-orange hue. Turmeric is so well appreciated in India it seems to be used in just about everything! It should be noted that traditionally they prefer the powder to be cooked verses consuming it raw, as the spice tends to mellow out after cooking. To do this just heat a little oil in a pan and sprinkle in some turmeric, stirring with a wooden spoon so it doesn’t burn. In a moments time the aroma will evolve into a more delicate version some describe as ginger and orange, with a slight peppery. Cook for just a few minutes and its ready for use. There is so much more to get to know about this amazing root, but I will stop there for now, and as usual I highly encourage you, my herbal friends, to continue the learning journey about this plant! p.s. for those of you who are new to turmeric heads up– it does stain things yellow, your skin too but will fade away in a day or two
Cumin seed (Cuminum cyminum): A member of the parsley family cumin seed is spicy, zesty, bitter, pungent, and cooling. It is a carminative, so it helps relieve gas and bloating similar to fennel, anise, and coriander to which it is related. It reduces nausea and colic, and is antibacterial against some forms of food poisoning. Cumin decoctions were prepared and taken to cool the body during hot weather. It is a mild diuretic, and has been used for mild insomnia and the common cold. Cumin has been proven to reduce levels of cholesterol and triglycerides (heart-damaging blood fats). It also displays support for type 2 diabetes as it can effectively lower blood sugar and lower levels of damaging fat and inflammation in the cellls of the pancreas, the organ which makes insulin. Additional research has shown it can delay diabetes caused cataract progression and maturation. Cumin is also rich in phytoestrogens and is taking stage as a possible bone-protector, and has a definite “osteo-protective effect” supporting postmenopausal women from losing their bone-mass. Rich in volatile oils and vitamins A and C, cumin too is another potent antioxidant and is one more to add to the anti-cancer/cancer combating list of herb and spices. India has used cumin for millennia and it is the most popular spice in Mexican cuisine, while finding its way into most every other cuisine world-wide. And as with most spices, cumin too has a rich history from ancient Greeks keeping it on the dining table in its very own cherished box (they did this with pepper also), to it being used as currency by the Romans–they actually payed their taxes with cumin seed! Cumin is an essential component of curry spice mixes and is also a well known ingredient in garam masala (and various other masala blends).
I am always amazed and grateful for the medicine and healing the many “culinary” herbs and spices offer us. Not to mention, how they are also able to elevate and enhance dishes prepared in the kitchen that please our palette’s, excite our senses, and nourish our bodies. Put a little spice in your life and get to blending my friend’s!
*This post is intended to be an exchange of information in hopes to keep the herbal tradition alive and well. It is of course not intended to treat, or diagnose, nor is it intended to replace the care and treatment from a licensed practitioner or health care provider. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA.