Saturday, October 5, 2013

Vegan Recipe: Roasted Butternut & Carrot Soup with Cashew Cream

Roasted Butternut Squash & Carrot Soup with Cashew Cream
My roasted butternut squash and carrot soup is so sumptuously creamy that no one will know it's vegetarian -- vegan, in fact -- unless you tell them. The luxuriously rich mouthfeel comes from the roasted and pureed cashews.

If you're aiming for maximum velvety smoothness, it's essential that you puree everything thoroughly. For a more rustic texture as shown in the photo, I recommend processing the cashews separately until the consistency of homemade peanut butter and pureeing the vegetables to your desired smoothness.

Roasting enhances the natural sweetness of the winter squash and the carrots, while the curry powder adds a subtle spice flavor without making this soup taste "Indian." If you do want more of an Indian style flavor, add an additional 1/2 tsp or more of curry powder, and you can use ghee instead of the final addition of oil if you are not vegan. Because Greg and I enjoy hot and spicy food, I used 1/4 teaspoon of red (cayenne) pepper, which gave the soup a solid peppery heat that I'd rate towards the hotter end of "medium." For a gentler, only mildly spicy soup, cut the amount of cayenne in half, or even reduce to just a pinch or so. The soup should be pleasantly zippy to your taste, not painfully hot.

If you are not vegetarian, you can use chicken broth instead of vegetable stock, or finish with a little cream or half-and-half for additional richness, or top with a dollop of sour cream or creme fraiche. Other attractive garnishes include a few roasted chopped cashews and roughly-chopped fresh parsley.

This recipe does take time, mainly for roasting, and some effort (e.g., chopping, pureeing) but it is well worth it both in terms of taste and appearance. You can refrigerate and reheat leftovers, too -- the recipe makes 4 to 6 servings.

1 butternut squash, about 1 to 1 1/2 lbs
2 or 3 carrots, about 1/2 lbs
1 large sweet onion
15 to 20 peeled cloves of garlic (i.e., one medium head if you count the cloves)
Olive oil
1/2 to 3/4 cup chopped cashews
1 tsp curry powder
2 1/2 cups vegetable stock
1/2 cup white wine
1/8 to 1/4 tsp red pepper or ground cayenne
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
1 Tbs very finely chopped fresh parsley
1/2 tsp (or to taste) salt

Preheat oven to 400°F. Peel the squash using a potato peeler, halve lengthwise, scoop out the seeds and chop the squash into chunks. Trim and peel the carrots, then chop into large chunks. Peel and trim the onion, quarter it then cut each quarter in half. Combine all of these vegetables in a large bowl together with the garlic, drizzle with olive oil and toss or stir with large spoon to coat all the vegetables evenly with the oil. Spread the vegetables in a single layer in a large, lightly oiled baking pan. Roast until the vegetables are very soft but be careful not to brown -- this will take about an hour or longer depending on your oven, and you will want to stir after 20 or 30 minutes and at least 1 or 2 more times afterwards to ensure even cooking (you might also have to reduce the temperature a little if the vegetables are turning golden before they're fork-tender).

While the vegetables are roasting, spread the cashew pieces in a small skillet or frying pan that's safe to heat without oil or liquid. Dry-roast the cashews over medium heat, stirring every few minutes and keeping a close eye as soon as they begin to darken because they can go from golden to burnt in seconds. When the cashews are golden and fragrant, remove from heat and set aside to cool.

Vegan butternut squash & carrot soup with cashew creamWhen the vegetables are tender and lightly golden, you're ready to start pureeing them in your blender or food processor, most likely in batches unless your machine is very large:  Transfer up to half of the roasted vegetables and cashews into your blender or processor, add some of the stock (1/2 to 1 cup) and puree to your desired smoothness. Repeat until all the vegetables and cashews have been pureed. If working in batches, have a large bowl or pot to pour the pureed batches into until all the vegetables have been processed -- or do what I did and simply pour into the original roasting pan, after draining out any remaining oil into the soup pot or Dutch oven that you'll be using to finish making the soup.

If you had any oil left in your roasting pan, drain this into a large soup pot or a Dutch oven -- you want about 1 Tablespoon of oil total. Heat over medium heat, add curry powder and cook, stirring constantly for 1 minute. Stir in the pureed soup, any remaining stock, and the rest of the ingredients. Bring to a low simmer, cover and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Taste for balance and adjust the seasonings if desired (e.g., adding more salt, cayenne or cinnamon).

Zestfully yours,

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