Warming dairy-free squash soup (updated 10/2018)

Soup is an all year round staple in our house, but particularly during winter. And at the moment, I need all the help I can get to warm up, on the inside as well as out! When my children were small, the vegetable eating battle commenced as they started to express their opinion over what they would or would not eat.  I discovered that soup didn’t seem to count as a problem. As long as it was smooth and didn’t look like it might be too good for them (ie: not green!), they guzzled down fresh vegetable soup with no problem.

Over time, certain soups have become associated with specific events. There’s ‘Holiday Soup’ – red lentil and tomato soup taken away in a big flask to eat on the journey to our holiday destination. ‘Lunchtime With Friends Soup’, a marvellously hearty vegetable and tarragon soup which never fails to impress. So feeling cold and missing the warm, sunny days of a Bangalore winter, I’ve turned to one of my favourite soups I’ve made over the last couple of years whilst we’ve been away – pumpkin (or squash), ginger, garlic and coconut soup – ‘Warming Soup’!

Eating soup in India may seem a little odd, and I must admit it wasn’t on the menu during the extreme summer heat, but somehow it didn’t feel out of place. Small pumpkins are readily available all year round, as of course are the other main ingredients, so it was easy to buy and simple to make. And it’s utterly delicious as well as dairy free, and pretty much free of any allergens which makes it suitable for anyone.

It’s the perfect soup for a cold winters day, as the ginger warms you from the inside and the coconut makes you think of warmer climes! In ayurvedic medicine, ginger is used to fuel the body’s ‘fire’, so it really does warm you up on the inside. It’s well known for aiding digestion and apparently helps improve circulation, reduce inflammation and ease colds. Garlic also has warming properties and is great for helping to improve circulation and fighting off colds. Ginger and garlic together are the perfect winter pairing!

I used butternut squash for my soup but this works with any orangey pumpkin or squash. Butternut squash is pretty good for you too, with no fat, low in carbohydrates and offers a good amount of vitamin A and C along with  potassium, manganese and a tad of magnesium.

The weights and measurements for this recipe are approximates – it all depends on what squash you are working with, how much you have and how much ginger and garlic you like. I do like my ginger fairly pungent, so you may want to use less to start. It’s important to add the coconut milk at the end and don’t let it boil otherwise it may split. The soup tastes ok, but doesn’t look as appetising! If your accidentally put in too much stock and the soup ends up too runny once the coconut milk has been added, don’t worry – serve it in a mug instead of bowl, it still works brilliantly.

Warming winter squash soup
1 butternut squash/small pumpkin, skinned, deseeded and cut in to small chunks
1 onion finely diced
3 cm chunk of ginger, peeled and finely chopped (add more or less as desired)
2-3 cloves of garlic (varies according to size or taste) finely chopped
800mls – 1 litre vegetable stock (or water if you have a yeast intolerance)
200ml coconut milk (omit if you follow the Overcoming MS programme)
salt and pepper

Heat the a couple of tablespoons of water in a large saucepan and sauté the onion until it starts to soften. Do not brown. Add the ginger and stir constantly for a couple of minutes, making sure it doesn’t burn. Add the garlic and fry for a minute or so. Tip in the squash, stir to incorporate then pour over the stock or water until the squash is covered (you may need more or less water depending on how much squash you have).

Bring to the boil then reduce the heat, cover with a lid and simmer until the squash is soft. Add the coconut milk If using and heat through without boiling. Turn off the heat and leave to cool slightly, then pour into a blender and blitz until smooth. If it’s really thick, add some more water or stock. Season with salt and pepper then reheat gently.

Serve with a glug of flaxseed oil and swirl of dairy-free cream if you haven’t used coconut milk.

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