In Colorado we usually get to enjoy an abundance of sunshine even in the midst of winter. The ability to soak up some rays in January is a real treat, and it’s one of the many reasons I love living here. Irrespective, I also appreciate more typical winter weather. Sometimes, during a particularly mild or dry season, I’ll miss the forced solitude and quiet downtime of a true winter’s day.
Snow? Bring it on…the more the merrier! Fog? My favorite. The heavy, damp mist makes me a little homesick. And rain? I’ll always be a Pacific Northwest girl at heart, and I love me a rainy day! I take delight in being outside on a rainy day because it makes me recall fond memories from growing up. I can even remember a time when I chopped and stacked wood in a gentle drizzle, surrounded by thick, dense air.
But if there’s one thing I’m not into, especially in the winter, it’s wind. And here in Northern Colorado we’ve sure been seeing our fair share of it lately. Yuck. Unlike the peace and relaxation I find with snow and rain, the wind makes me feel scattered and tense, like I’m constantly bracing myself against it. I want to scurry from it, retreating back indoors where its sane and serene.
But a windy day has one thing going for it—it gives me a great excuse for some comforting winter food! And soup is at the top of my list, winter weather or not. This soup is soothing, soul-warming, and cozy all at once. The sweet winter squash makes it hardy and comforting, while the supportive blend of spices helps me feel grounded—particularly beneficial when feeling off balance. Equally enjoyed by adults and kids alike, it’s a win for the entire family.
Ideally, I like to roast my vegetables first for a more concentrated depth of flavor. However, the soup is still delicious if you can’t find time for the extra step. The soup also has a lovely creaminess and unique flavor profile thanks to the coconut milk, which makes a beautiful complement to the spices and adds to the soup’s silken texture. If at all possible, use a brand that lists only coconut and water and has no stabilizing gums. Native Forest Simple Coconut Milk is my first choice when shopping for coconut milk. It’s organic, consciously harvested, and contains limited ingredients, no gums involved. Their Native Forest Classic does contain gums, but would still be my next choice. Lastly, Thai Kitchen makes a good organic coconut milk as well. If coconut milk is unavailable, a quality heavy cream (organic and preferably raw) would be my first choice of a stand-in.
You may use any type of squash, or even a blend of different squashes. For soups, butternut is my first choice as it has a higher moisture content than other winter squash and produces the best texture, not to mention the most glorious deep orange hue. It’s also widely available both fresh and frozen in many grocery stores, making it the most easily accessible.
No matter what kind of bleak or mild winter weather the season is doling out for you, sitting down with a bowl of this simple, savory, and downright delicious soup will be as comforting as cuddling up in a warm blanket.
Curried Winter Squash Soup with Coconut Milk
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 30–60 minutes, depending on if you roast your veggies or not
2 tablespoons butter or coconut oil
1 onion, diced
2 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
10 cups peeled, diced butternut or other winter squash (about 1 medium-large)
1–2 small apples, peeled if desired and quartered (optional)
Sea salt and pepper
2 stalks celery, roughly chopped
2 inches ginger, peeled and minced
1½ tablespoons curry powder
½ teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon ground coriander
1 pinch cayenne (optional)
1 quart chicken broth, vegetable broth, or water
2 (14 oz.) cans full-fat coconut milk (or use 2 cups heavy cream and 1 extra cup of broth), divided
- If roasting: Preheat oven to 425°F. Melt butter or coconut oil, then toss with onion, carrot, squash, and apple (if using) until lightly coated. Season with salt and pepper. Spread out in an even layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet (or two). Roast until vegetables are lightly caramelized and almost tender, about 20 minutes. Transfer to a large pot. Add celery and spices, stirring to combine. Sauté over medium heat for 5 minutes. Proceed with recipe in step 3
- If not roasting: Heat butter or coconut oil in a large pot. Add onion, carrot, squash, apple (if using), and celery. Sauté until crisp-tender, about 10 minutes. Add spices and cook an additional couple minutes. Proceed with recipe in step 3.
- Pour broth and ¾ of the coconut milk over veggies in pot. The liquid should cover everything. If not, add a little extra water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until all the vegetables are very tender, about 20 minutes.
- Working in batches, carefully ladle the soup into your blender, being careful not to fill more than halfway to prevent burns. Cover lid with a towel and hold down with your hand as hot liquids tend to expand in the blender. Start blending on low speed, then work up to high. Add a little more liquid if necessary should the mixture be too thick (the soup should be smooth and creamy). Pour soup into another pot, and continue with remaining soup until it’s all blended. With all the batches in the second pot, stir together to combine completely. Reheat on stovetop over medium-low heat, if necessary. (Note: I prefer a blender for this step, but an immersion blender is also an option if you want to blend the soup in the pot.)
- To serve, ladle soup into bowls. Drizzle reserved coconut milk and chopped cilantro over each bowl for garnish.
Image from Briana Goodall.