I’ve been having some stomach oddities lately, and not only is it messing with my life, it’s pissing me off. I’m not really sick, per se, but for about a month, I just haven’t felt…right. My stomach will growl and I’ll feel hungry, but then when I eat, I’ll feel full after only a couple of bites and lose interest in food. Sometimes I’ll even go to the trouble of making dinner, sit down to eat it, and suddenly not want any part of it. I’ll end up eating a few bites of rice or a coffee mug of cereal and call it done. And then we’re awash in leftovers–sad little containers of cast-off meals.
It’s worrying to my husband, who is no longer buying my excuse that it’s probably some “weirdo little bug,” so I have an appointment with a G.I. specialist next week. Until then (and for the past month), I’m struggling to find something I want to eat. Since I can’t eat a lot, I usually opt for something calorie dense, like handfuls of nuts or avocado toast, but even those taste sort of like dust. It’s making this food-loving girl cranky and sad.
It’s also making it hard to work up any enthusiasm for cooking, which sort of screws you over if you’re a person who writes about food. And my poor husband! He hasn’t complained, but he’s been eating a lot of sandwiches and quesadillas. And leftovers. Lots of leftovers.
Hopefully, whatever this is, it’ll be gone soon.
In the meantime, I’ll just focus on things that are nourishing and bring comfort, like this soup.
I’ll admit up-front that this soup is not something I would ordinarily make. Or even consider making. Why, you ask? Well, this soup showcases two ingredients that I normally don’t like at all–butternut squash and cooked carrots. I’ve even declared war on cooked carrots in the past–why would I make this?
Reason 1: I’m cheap and hate to waste food, and I had some carrots in the crisper that needed to be used up. I also had butternut squash puree in the pantry for the sole purpose of adding nutrition to homemade doggie treats, but Mozzy’s getting a little chubby lately. No dog treats for a bit.
Reason 2: When I thought about it, the main problems I have with butternut squash and cooked carrots are with texture, not taste. It’s the mushy, squishy, soggy texture of cooked carrots and butternut squash that give me the willies. Since this soup is pureed completely, those textural objections aren’t really an…object anymore. Problem solved.
There was a bit of a problem, though. I have eaten butternut squash soup in restaurants before (usually when it’s part of a holiday menu) and I’ve always thought, “Eh, it’s not bad. But I wouldn’t call it good, either.” There’s always been something about it that just isn’t right. One version was too sweet and was heavy on the nutmeg. One was weighed down by too much heavy cream and sage. One was topped with pomegranate seeds and was just plain weird.
How could I make a soup that would use up my leftovers and taste good, too?
A lot of times, when I’m trying to inject flavor into a dish, I’ll turn to Asian or Indian spices. There’s something so intriguing and complex about the blend of garlic, ginger, chiles and curry. It also doesn’t hurt that ginger does wonders for a temperamental tummy, and when I saw a partially used container of coconut milk in my refrigerator, that sealed the deal. Curried carrot and butternut squash bisque, here I come.
Feel free to tinker with the recipe. If you don’t like a strong curry flavor, use less Thai curry paste. If you like a creamier soup, double the amount of coconut milk. If you like things racy, add Sriracha or extra chili flakes. If you want a fully vegetarian soup, use vegetable broth instead of the chicken.
My only restriction for you is that you use nice, organic, full-sized carrots with the green tops on them. Organic carrots taste better and the green tops are indicators of freshness. By NO means should you use those bagged mini-carrot thingies in this recipe. Those are only suitable for dipping in some mayonnaise-heavy concoction at cocktail parties. Capisce?
This soup is healthy and warming and soothing, and I was definitely glad I took the time to make it. I also liked that it was dairy-free, so I could freeze it for later consumption. It’s easy on a rumbly tummy but would also be helpful to anyone nursing a cold.
In short, it’s perfect for snowy days, long (cold) nights and anyone craving comfort.
Curried Carrot and Butternut Squash Soup
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 chopped onion
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
1-2 tablespoons Thai red curry paste
3-4 carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
32-ounce container low-sodium chicken stock
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
10 ounces butternut squash puree
1 cup coconut milk
extra salt and pepper to taste (optional)
Sriracha or chile flakes (optional)
chopped fresh basil or cilantro for garnish (optional)
In a large Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Add onion and saute until translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic, ginger and curry paste and cook for a minute. Add the carrot pieces, chicken stock, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, stirring. When it comes to a boil, cover the pot and turn the heat down to a simmer. Cook until carrots are tender and almost falling apart, about 40 minutes depending on how large your carrot pieces are. Cool the soup until barely warm and puree with a hand-held blender or in a regular blender. Return soup to the stovetop and heat over medium low until hot. Stir in the coconut milk and the butternut squash puree and heat through. Taste and season with salt and pepper, if desired.
If you like a little spice, add a few healthy squirts of Sriracha or some chile flakes. Garnish with fresh herbs.