As some of you know I have a somewhat odd obsession with very big, very sharp kitchen knives. A few weeks ago I managed to freak out quite a few of my friends by getting slightly more enthusiastic than normal over a knife sharpener. Of course, there is no prescribed level of normalness when it comes to knife-sharpening enthusiasm, I think the strangeness was mainly due to the fact that I don’t tend to get enthusiastic about stuff. Of course I know that really appreciating sharp knives isn’t odd, actually perfectly sensible. Try and chop a butternut squash with a small vegetable knife that isn’t sharp anymore and you will know what I mean. Having the correct knife that is sharp enough is actually safer as you need much less force behind it. Once you get over the fact that they might look a bit scary, you will never go back. About 4 or 5 years ago I was making sushi with a friend at their house and asked for a very sharp knife, and was given some global brand ones to use, and my life was never the same again.
I’m never very good at buying ginger, despite really knowing better. I always accidentally let it go moldy and have to throw it away (which is really stupid of me – fresh ginger freezes really well). When you buy ginger go for the fattest chunk you can find. In general in the ginger box in the supermarket/shop, there are massive hand-sized roots, and tiny little broken blobs. It isn’t widely known, but it is perfectly acceptable to break a chunk off a big root to get the piece you want the most (although I still tend to do this quite subtley, in case I get into trouble). The little broken bits are thinner and you have no idea how long they have been separated from the main root, slowly drying out. This soup really does need ginger, I didn’t have any and so borrowed some of my housemate’s slightly odd-looking ginger she found in the amazing Indian supermarket in Kingsbury. The ginger was so odd in fact, that it was turmeric. If you want to know what fresh turmeric looks like, see here. My hands were yellow for the rest of the day.
These quantities are pretty vague, and this soup will make one big pot full. The veggies can be increased pretty much exponentially depending on how many people you need to feed.
1 butternut squash, peeled and cut into chunks
1 Leek, thoroughly washed and sliced
2 carrots, peeled and sliced
1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into chunks
1 large onion, diced
about 1 inch of fresh ginger, peeled and diced or grated
1 or 2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 can of coconut milk
½ teaspoon chili powder
1 heaped teaspoon ground cumin
1 heaped teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon curry powder
Amchoor powder – this is dried sour mango, ground to a powder. It is used in parts of India as a souring flavour, like lemon juice, especially in places that don’t necessarily have fridges. I bought it in an Indian supermarket in Kenton and its really fantastic, tasting a bit like sherbet! I think it is pretty easily available, if you know where to look!
Fry the onions on a medium heat for about 10 minutes, and then add the garlic and ginger. After 2 or 3 minutes add the spice powders and fry for a few more minutes. Then add the veggies and stir to coat in the spicey onion mixture. Add the coconut milk and another can-full of hot water. You want the liquid to come up almost as high as the veggies, but not covering them entirely. Leave to simmer for 30-40 minutes, or until everything is cooked through. Leave to cool slightly and then blitz with a hand blender. Season the soup and reheat as required. Serve with the mango powder sprinkled on the top, maybe with a little dollop of yogurt and some dried chili flakes too if you want.