This butternut squash and lentil soup is here to remind you that fall is the best season of all. Golden sunsets, crisp air, and the many shades of golds, yellows, and reds show us the beauty of letting things go. They keep us grounded and help us better appreciate the present and all its splendor. This soup is for those who believe in savoring the moment, paying attention to the small things, and indulging in soul food.
The recipe calls for comforting butternut squash, hearty lentils, warm spices, and herbs – all complemented by a tahini and garlic sauce that is drizzled over the served dish. The end result makes for pure satisfaction, especially for the gloomy days ahead.
I often make this soup a day in advance. As with most stews and soups, its flavors tend to develop more overnight.
INGREDIENTS/ SERVES 4-6
2 medium onions, finely chopped
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 generous pinches red chili flakes
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 butternut squash (2 pounds/1 kilo) peeled, seeds removed, and chopped into cubes
2 cups red lentils
2 teaspoons salt
good grinding black pepper
1 teaspoon Arabic seven spice (baharaat) or substitute with all-spice
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
5 cups boiling low-sodium vegetable stock (or water with 1 vegetable stock cube)
For the Tahini Sauce
4 tablespoons tahini
3 tablespoons lime or lemon juice
2-3 tablespoons water
1 clove garlic, finely crushed
Sauté onion with olive oil in a medium pot over medium heat for 8-10 minutes or until soft and translucent. Add chili flakes, bay leaves, ginger, and garlic and stir for another 3 minutes. Stir in the butternut squash, lentils, seasoning, and spices and cook for another 3 minutes. Pour in the boiling stock (or water plus 1 vegetable stock cube). Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat to low, and leave to cook for about 25-30 minutes or until the butternut squash is tender. Remove and discard the bay leaves.
Blend the soup using a hand/ immersion blender or in batches using a standard blender. Taste for seasoning and adjust to your taste. Serve and top with tahini-garlic sauce (below), chopped cilantro, and toasted pine nuts.
For the sauce, combine tahini and lime/lemon juice in a small bowl and whisk until thick and smooth. Add 1 tablespoon of water at a time until you get a thick, yet runny consistency. Mix in garlic and salt. Drizzle over soup before serving.
Add 3 large carrots, finely chopped, along with the butternut squash, for a slightly sweeter and more orange-colored soup. Adjust consistency at the end by adding more stock to your liking.