A veggie box on your doorstep is delightful thing to wake up to any day, but exponentially more so on those days when the world outside is covered in a subzero meringue of snow and the roads and sidewalks a creme brulee of ice.
This time of year the boxes are always heavy with starchy roots and gourds, which for soup fiends like me is perfect for boiling up and blitzing into cauldron upon cauldron of soul-toasting potions.
When making this particular soup I realised I'd run out of chicken stock, but given the frost was in no mood to venture outside. I could try to scrape together a vegetable broth, but I haven't yet come across a sufficiently convincing made-from-scratch version at the best of times. I also didn't want to resort to MSG and chemical laden stock cubes.
What to do?
After a rummage through the fridge, I decided to take a punt on using miso paste (the one used here had bonito extract). After the squash had been cooking for 45 minutes, I tried 1 cube with a dab of miso on it. I am thrilled to report that it produced an absolutely delightful result -- the miso gave lift of salt, but instead of the sometimes-metallic high-note of salt, the miso had a much deeper and rounder sweetness. Later, when the soup was in its recognisable soup format, it was very hard to pinpoint the miso in the soup. First-time tasters aren't likely to spot it unless they're looking for it.
The recipe below also works very well with carrots, and -- I am willing to bet -- pumpkins. If you find other root vegetables that fare well as the headline act for this miso-based chorus, please let me know!
Top tip? Make a big batch, share with loved ones, and keep each other warm and fuzzy!
Makes 4 servings
1 medium-sized butternut squash, skinned, de-seeded and cut into even-sized cubes
1 large onion, finely diced
1 tablespoon of garlic-ginger paste
1 tablespoon olive oil
Enough water to just about cover the squash in the pot
2 heaped teaspoons of miso paste, more to taste if necessary
1 cup whole milk
1-2 red chillies, deseeded and finely chopped
1 handful of coriander, roughly chopped
Salt and finely ground black pepper to taste
- Drizzle ~1 tablespoon of olive oil into a soup pot
- Add onion and garlic-ginger paste, and fry on medium heat for a couple of minutes, until the onion turns translucent
- Add the butternut squash cubes and stir until the oily contents cover the squash evenly
- Add water until all the squash is just about covered
- Bring to the boil, then lower stove flame to low-medium and simmer for 45 minutes
- Test the squash with a fork. It should yield easily and start to be just a touch mushy
- Add the miso and stir in
- Add the chili and coriander (both raw), and blend or hand-blitz until contents are mostly smooth
- Add milk and blend until soup is smooth and velvety
- If soup feels sludgy, add a bit of milk or boiling water at a time and mix, until you get the smoothness and lightness you want (do this gradually -- it's easier to dilute a soup than to re-thicken it)
- Add additional miso paste or salt, and black pepper to taste
- Serve up the soup, and garnish with a sprig of fresh coriander and a few drops of chili oil
- If you like, add a dollop of greek yogurt in the bowl just before serving, to add creaminess with a tangy lift
Best eaten with toes curled in a pair of furry slippers, gazing out the window at the snow outside.