Moroccan-Spiced Butternut Soup
It’s pretty typical of us to take a basic recipe concept and ask ourselves how it can be elevated. How can we make it more complex, more balanced, more interesting? In other words, how can we take a traditional classic and update it a little without totally ruining its original flavors or nourishment?
When we are in creative-cooking mode (ie recipe creation), this theme is ever-present. And what a winner this one turned out to be.
This recipe all started when we got a Butternut Squash in our Winter CSA from Stoneboat Farm. (Shout-out to Jesse and crew, btw, love those folks! That’s where we got our Thanksgiving turkey from!)
About squash: I have not historically been a squash fan. To this day, I still pretty much abhor summer squashes (I know, and I’m sorry! It’s a texture thing!). I’ve had less experience with winter squashes because my family didn’t keep a winter garden growing up. But given the similar look and texture, I’d always thrown them in the same disdainful boat.
But a couple years ago, I had my first bowl of pureed butternut squash soup out at a work dinner where it seemed rude to refuse, and it changed my mind in an instant. No slimy texture, no seeds, and a nice mild buttery flavor – what’s not to love? Recently we had some again in a Sopa Del Dia (Soup of the Day) at Por Que No – something they only do during the winters, god bless them. This version had a distinct peppery, smoky flavor though, as they mixed it with chipotle peppers and some fresh poblanos. We may or may not have gone back the next day for seconds before they ran out. 🙊
Now that the roasted pepper + butternut idea was planted in my mind, and with some moroccan-spiced dishes we’d had lately at perennial favorites Toro Bravo and Navarre, I was curious if the two flavors would mesh well inside a beautifully thick and creamy bowl of roasted, pureed Butternut.
The soup recipe turned out so smashing on the very first try, I vowed to double it the next time I made it.
Pictured with this warming spiced goodness though, comes an even more special treat: Our Chipotle-Cinnamon Lamb topped or stirred in. After we’d eaten that deliciousness as Tacos for two days straight, I shifted gears. Into Butternut gear, specifically. Suffice to say the lamb (along with some roasted pepitas and torn croutons) made a hearty, filling meal perfect for coming in out of the cold.
A few tactical points: I recommend you peel, cube and roast the butternut before placing it in the soup pot. When you roast anything, it develops that sweet, caramelized roasty flavor.
And because of this fact, I didn’t stop my roasting with the squash. I roasted the carrots and red onion too. I know it adds a few extra cookie sheets to the dirty dishes pile. But I think that adds a complexity of flavor to this bowl you wouldn’t get if you just threw everything in raw. It also helps shorten the simmer time on the squash and carrots.
Butternuts (along with other winter squashes) are really nourishing little gourds. Ounce for ounce they contain more potassium than bananas. They’re also an excellent source of fiber, and Vitamin B6 which is crucial for your immune system and controlling stress response in the body.
Along with other orange fruits and vegetables, butternut contains a plant compound called beta-cryptoxanthin. As well as having high amounts of Vitamin A, this antioxidant has been found to reduce inflammation throughout the body, also reducing risk of developing both arthritis and osteoporosis. A study published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers and Prevention followed nearly 400,000 people for up to 16 years, and found that a higher intake of beta-cryptoxanthin also reduced the risk of lung cancer by more than 30 percent.
Because of its natural creaminess, very little fat is needed to make this soup taste creamy and rich. We did add a small amount of half-and-half from a high-quality, grass-fed source at the end – but in my opinion doing so is optional and could be omitted or substituted with coconut milk.
In the picture below, I also added some half and half and pepitas on top. (And that decadent lamb. OMG.)
In terms of the Moroccan Spice mix, I researched around and kinda came up with the best mix I thought would taste the most balanced. Feel free to alter your spice ratios a bit to suit your tastes. Be careful with strong spices like cloves and cumin – they can easily overpower dishes. I recommend making up the mix and then adding it a teaspoon at a time until the soup has the amount of spiced flavor you prefer. I ended up using a tablespoon (3 teaspoons).
All I had on hand for garnish was half and half, leading to a creamy look on top, but if you’re feeling fancy, swap it out for a heavy cream drizzle. Roasted pepitas and torn croutons make an excellent texture addition to complete the meal.
Nutrition Info: Includes 1 serving of Soup plus 1 T each of Half and Half and Pepitas. Adding 1 serving of Lamb adds 190 calories, 27g protein, and 9g fat.
Wine Pairing: The spiced, warming soup is just begging for a rich chocolatey Spanish Tempranillo. You could also sub out an Old Vine Primitivo, a sturdy Cab, or even a lighter Syrah, like this one from Saviah Cellars. Tempranillo goes realllly well with cinnamon and lamb, however – so this Estate version by Castillo de Feliciana is our top pick. Whatever your grape, choose a more mature vintage that’s got some substantial mouthfeel and layered complexity. It won’t do as well with a young, bright wine.
This soup will also freeze well – just don’t add any dairy until you reheat.
Moroccan-Spiced Butternut Soup
Nutrition Per Serving