It’s been an extremely busy couple of weeks. I’ve been working on some big life Next Steps, working my two jobs, seeing and skyping friends as often as possible, and trying to walk through the snow, slush, and ice without wiping out (I’m 3 falls in, so far)- it’s been more than a little exhausting. Meal planning is extra tough when things get so busy, but luckily Aaron and I have been able to make it to the grocery store every week, list and meal plan in hand. This week, I planned to incorporate some cheap and easy one-(ish)-pot meals, and this one might be my favourite.
Yesterday, for a simple and flavourful Monday dinner, I made a soup inspired by one that my Mom makes often- it’s one of my Dad and brother’s favourites. I was chatting with my brother on the phone this week, which, happily, I’ve been able to do more and more as he grows up. He’s a full-on pre-teen of twelve, and he’s hilarious. When we were talking on the phone, I asked what Ma had made for dinner that evening. He said “um, you know, the orange soup?” We laughed about how we know my Mom’s soups by their colour- the green one is cilantro-zucchini, the yellow one is corn with poblanos, the red one is tortilla soup or sopa de pasta, and the orange one is the one I’m going to tell you about today: sweet potato squash soup with ginger, cilantro, and lime. It’s a one-pot + one small bowl meal, which means the cleanup is pretty painless. It’s a long ingredients list, but just gather everything you need before you start cooking and the process of adding them to the pot a few at a time will be super easy.
3 tbsp vegetable oil
1 large white onion, roughly diced
1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-inch chunks
2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
2 large carrots, peeled and sliced into discs
1 tbsp salt
3-inch-long, 1-inch wide piece of ginger, roughly chopped
4 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
1 jalapeño, roughly diced
1 tbsp garlic powder
1 tsp chili powder
Juice of 2 limes
1 chicken broth cube (to make it vegetarian, just use a vegetable broth cube)
1/2 bunch cilantro
2 bay leaves
1 tbsp fish sauce
2 tbsp soy sauce
3 tbsp rice vinegar
3/4 cup coconut milk (optional-ish- I made the soup without it because I didn’t have any, but it does make it extra creamy and delicious)
For the quick-pickled red onion garnish:
1 red onion, finely diced
5 green onions, sliced
Enough white vinegar to cover
1 tsp soy sauce
1 dash fish sauce (1/4 tsp)
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp sesame oil
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
- Place your biggest pot over medium heat and add 3 tbsp vegetable oil. Let it warm up for a minute.
- Add the white onion and sauté for 2 minutes. Add the squash, sweet potato, carrot, and salt, and cook for 10 minutes, mixing often and checking if anything is sticking to the bottom.
- Add ginger, garlic, and jalapeño, and cook for another 5 minutes, mixing often. Add the garlic powder, chili powder, lime juice, and broth cube, and mix.
- While your veggies are cooking in the pot, trim the dirty roots off of the cilantro and wash the bunch well. Then, cut the stems of the cilantro and throw them into the pot. Keep the more leafy half of the bunch for later.
- Add 1.5 L of water to your pot, followed by the bay leaves, fish sauce, soy sauce and rice vinegar. Cover, turn up the heat, and bring to a rapid boil.
- Let the soup bubble vigorously with the lid on for 10 minutes, and then remove the lid and turn the heat down to medium-low. Let the soup simmer for about an hour, stirring every once in awhile to check that it’s not burning at the bottom.
- While the soup is bubbling away, make the garnish. Place all garnish ingredients into a non-metallic bowl, mix well, cover with plastic wrap, and set aside.
- After an hour of cooking, all the vegetables should be just about falling apart. Add the coconut milk if using, and blend the soup until perfectly smooth, preferably with an immersion/stick blender (so you don’t have to wait until it cools down enough to put into a regular blender). Just be super-careful while blending- pureed soups get infernally hot and they bubble violently even over low heat- the small splash-sized burn on my forearm is proof of this.
- Taste the soup (but blow on the spoon a lot! I also burnt my tongue). Add more salt, soy sauce, vinegar, or lime to adjust for your personal taste, but also keep in mind that the garnish is acidic, slightly sweet, and fresh.
- Finely chop the leafy half of the bunch of cilantro and add to the pickled onion mix.
- Pour the soup into bowls and add a heaping tablespoon of the pickled onion mix. Spoon on a bit of the juice too. Add the cilantro, and serve.
There you have it! A colourful, super-flavourful soup that makes for a warming but healthy dinner. I suggest putting on an episode of TV or reading while the soup simmers and the pickled onion pickles- though this recipe takes about an hour and a half to come together, it’s only about half an hour of active cooking time, so don your slippers and comfiest robe and relax while the soup gets more and more delicious.