After feasting on my Crunchy Squash Tacos on Tuesday, I was left with a surplus of butternut squash (it was a big ‘un!), and rather than let anything go to waste, yesterday lunchtime I threw together a very quick (and unintentionally vegan) soup using the squash and one of my absolute favourite freezer essentials – homemade khao soi paste.
Khao soi is a Thai/Lao soup made with rice noodles (khao soi means ‘cut rice’ and refers to the method of making the noodles in a big sheet and then rolling and cutting them). But that doesn’t mean that you can’t hijack the base of the soup and throw in whatever you have lying around!
I grill my ingredients on my little Prakti rocket stove. It’s ready to use in 10 mins and, as the name suggests, goes like a rocket. That thing is HOT!
Making the paste is a small labour of love, but believe me when I tell you that it is worth the smoke-filled eyes and turmeric stained fingers. The key to making the paste is to char everything until totally blackened so that all of the flavours are released and you get this deep, smoky flavour. if you have a BBQ, wait for a break in the rain and get out there and make a batch. If you don’t, whack the grill on and open the windows!
Freeze in batches, about 6 tablespoons at a time. And retrieve from the freezer when you need to spice up your life.
Thai Coconut, Butternut and Lentil Soup
For the paste (these quantities are approximate and can be scaled up or down, or quantities adjusted to personal preference):
- 6 fresh red chillis
- 1 bulb garlic
- Large piece of fresh ginger
- Thumb-sized piece of fresh turmeric (substitute with 1 tbsp ground turmeric if you can’t find fresh)
- 4 large banana shallots
- Large bunch of fresh corriander
- 1 dried thai chilli or 1 teaspoon chilli flakes
- 2 tbsp ground coriander
- 2 Kaffir lime leaves
For the soup:
- 1 red onion, finely chopped
- 1 can coconut milk
- 6 tablespoons khao soi paste
- 1 teaspoon of bouillon paste or 1 vegetable stock cube
- 300g butternut squash, cut into 1cm cubes
- 100g (equivalnet to 1/2 cup) puy lentils
- Red chilli, coriander and lime wedges to garnish
To make the paste:
Over a BBQ or under a grill, char the chillis, garlic cloves, ginger, fresh turmeric and shallots until totally blackened. Threading the garlic cloves onto a skewer makes them much easier to handle!
Transfer to a tray until cool enough to handle. Peel everything (you don’t need to be too precise with this) and put into a food processor with the chilli flakes, ground coriander, kaffir lime leaves, and the stalks of the coriander and half of the leaves. Process until smooth. Leave to cool completely before freezing in batches. Or use as fresh.
To make the soup:
Place a large saucepan over a medium heat. Open the can of coconut milk and add a couple of spoonfuls of the solidified fat to the pan. Add the chopped onion and a pinch of salt, and sweat until the onions are softened and then add the curry paste. You can add it straight from the freezer if you’re using frozen. Once the paste starts to sizzle, add the squash and lentils and stir to coat everything.
Next add the rest of the coconut milk, the vegetable paste or stock cube and 300ml of boiling water.
Cook at a low simmer until the squash and lentils are cooked through, approximately 20 minutes.
Serve with fresh coriander, sliced fresh chillis and a squeeze of lime.