Butternut Squash and Lentil Soup

Squash soup reminds me of getting off the beaten path in Asia. I’ve eaten it with hill tribes in Laos, sleepy plantation workers in Sri Lanka, and camel men in India’s deserts. I’ve loved all the many variations, each made with homegrown ingredients and eaten with a smile and candlelight. My version feels more like something you would find in Malaysia. It has that element of reverential defiance you find in Malay cuisine, where influences from every corner of Asia flavor each recipe. Enjoy this spicy sweet soup (or is it a curry?) with an open mind, a daydream is the best garnish.

  • 1 large or 2 small butternut squash, rind and seeds removed, cut into 1 1/2″ cubes
  • 1 cup dried red lentils
  • 2 cups diced onion
  • 2 cups diced celery
  • 2 cups diced carrot
  • 1.5 cups coconut milk (1 can)
  • 1.4-2 cups chicken stock or equivalent
  • 6-10 large cloves of garlic
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1.5 tbsp ginger paste
  • 1.5 tbsp curry powder
  • 0.5 tbsp lemongrass paste
  • 1 tbsp ground coriander
  • 0.5 tbsp black pepper
  • salt to taste (~½ tbsp)
  • ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
  • serve with Sambal Oelek

Add ~2 tbsp of olive oil a 6qt or larger pot and bring to medium heat. Add carrots, onions, and celery, saute for ~10 min until celery is getting translucent.

Add garlic, stir thoroughly, continue sautéing about 2 minutes, the garlic should be very fragrant.

Add coconut milk, ginger, and lemongrass. Bring to a low boil, stirring occasionally, the ginger and coconut should now be fragrant (5-10 min).

Add spices and cook another ~3 minutes.

Add butternut squash, chicken stock, red lentils, and 3 cups of water.

Cover and keep at low boil for about 1 hour. Stir occasionally, encouraging the squash to separate and thicken the soup. When done squash should hold it’s shape but come apart easily, lentils and carrots should be pleasantly soft. Check spicing, add a bit more what you like if you want but try not overpower the delicate flavor of the squash. I like this soup quite thick so I sometimes simmer with the lid off for additional time.

I serve this with dollop of sambal oelek on top but it can also be added to the entire batch during the cooking process. The soup is much better with a little heat, adding it as a garnish allow diners to spice each bite, mix it in, or avoid it.

This soup could nearly pass for a dessert but it has a hearty savory side. It is very healthy and protein rich.

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Scott Dusek is a writer and photography originally from Seattle, Washingon.

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