Belly-Warming Butternut Soup
Having to enter the kitchen to prepare a delicious and nutritious dinner for yourself or your family after a very busy day can be a chore for some, and a relaxing exercise for others. I take the latter position - cooking is fun, even more so when you have hungry bellies to feed and a tasty new recipe to try out. There are days, however, where you just need to be able to put a whole lot of ingredients in a pot on the stove that you can leave to cook until they're ready. Soup is always a winning winter recipe that requires a bit of preparation beforehand, but is incredibly simple and easy to actually cook. Seeing as winter is coming to an end over here in South Africa, I thought that I better share this recipe before the weather warms up too much. This soup can be prepared in advance and frozen for a busy day, and all you'll need to do is defrost and warm it up at dinner time :) #winning
This soup recipe makes use of a number of delicious spices, which transform it from a regular old butternut soup into a flavourful meal, with a bit of a zing that will keep your tummy warm during the chilly winter months. Cayenne pepper and chilli give the soup some heat, whilst turmeric contributes to its vibrant yellow colour, as well as some awesome health benefits.
Turmeric is an amazing spice that has been used for hundreds of years in food preparation for its vibrant colour, characteristic flavour, and its beneficial effects on a number of diseases and conditions . The spice is derived from the dried root of the Curcuma long plant . The main biologically active molecule of turmeric, which is responsible for a number of these positive effects, is known as curcumin. This polyphenol has amazing anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, and has the potential to prevent cancer, diabetes and metabolic syndrome, dyslipidemia, cardiovascular disease, arthritic diseases, infections, and even Alzheimer's disease [1,2].
I'll have to write a more detailed post on this topic at a later stage, but for now let me explain a bit about why antioxidants are important for us. They should be included in our diets because they are able to scavenge, or 'deactivate', harmful oxygen free radicals, which can do a lot of damage in our bodies. The antioxidant activity of curcumin includes its ability to protect lipids (fats), haemoglobin, and DNA against oxidative damage, as well as its ability to maintain the activity of important antioxidant enzymes such as superoxide dismutase, catalase, and glutathione peroxidase .
Unfortunately, the efficacy of these beneficial effects is limited by curcumin's poor bioavailability (the proportion of a drug or other substance that enters the circulation when introduced into the body and so is able to have an active effect). Nevertheless, many studies are currently being carried out with the aim of better understanding and improving the absorption and distribution of curcumin in foods, as well as its use as a natural drug that can be used to control a number of diseases [1,2].
For those that are interested, this antioxidant activity is due to the conjugated structure of curcumin, which allows it to trap free radicals. If you would like to read a bit more about the beneficial properties of turmeric and the mechanisms thereof, set aside some time to read these two articles: here and here.
Just one tip, before I share the recipe, be careful to choose a spoon and blender that can handle turmeric before you use it to prepare this soup. I happened to use a white hand-blender to puree this belly-warming butternut soup, and it's never been quite the same again. Turmeric is the best yellow dye around, so don't say I did not warn you :)
Adapted from Sababa - Middle Eastern and Mediterranean Food
Total time: 1h 30min
2 Tbsp coconut oil
2 onions, diced
2 cloves of garlic
Salt and pepper (to taste)
1 Tbsp turmeric
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 Tbsp cumin
1/2 Tbsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp chilli powder (optional, to taste)
1 whole butternut (± 1 kg), peeled and cut into chunks
1 large carrot, peeled and cut into chunks
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and cut into chunks
3 large stalks celery, sliced
2 cups homemade vegetable/chicken stock OR 2 Tbsp stock powder dissolved in 2 cups water
Heat oil in a large pot on a medium-high heat. Add the diced onions and fry until soft. Add the garlic and stir. Add the spices, mix through the onion, and cook for a few minutes.
Add the vegetables and stock to the pot, along with enough water to just cover the top of the vegetables.
Bring to the boil before lowering the heat, and allow to simmer for about an hour.
Use a stick blender to blend the soup ingredients to form a thick, smooth soup. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste.
Some like spicy food, others don't. When adding the spices add or eliminate the cayenne pepper and/or chilli powder depending on your taste.
Serve with crispy bacon, a tablespoon of creamy Greek yoghurt, or freshly toasted seed loaf.