As summer has passed, so too have overly summery dinners. Gone are the cool, green salads and light dishes and in come the more hearty recipes. Eating outdoors isn’t really an option any longer – although we still have sunshine, there’s a chill in the air and it all seems far too much faff to bring rugs and throws out, and light the fire-pit and then haul everything to do with dinner outside. It’s no bother in the summer, but as the nights start to draw in, cooking in the kitchen and eating in the warmth of the Well Room or the living room is just so much more appealing. So, we’re finding that our meals are slowly becoming more on the spicy, punchy side, as we prepare for the onset of colder weather – and this weekend, one of our favourite tried and tested Jamie Oliver soups was on the menu. Spicy Squash Laska Soup.
This soup – or to be more precise, broth, as it’s rich and thick – is packed full of Malaysian flavours, and is much more of a substantial meal than a bowl of soup. There are a lot of ingredients and it takes a bit of preparation, but once everything is bubbling away, it’s well worth it. And, the kitchen smells amazing as all of the spices do their work.
- 1 litre of stock (we used veggie stock cubes)
- Handful of lime leaves
- 3 fresh red chillies, de-seeded (or a big spoonful of dried chilli flakes)
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled
- 1 large thumb-sized piece fresh ginger, peeled
- 3 sticks lemongrass, trimmed and squashed with the back of a knife
- sea salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- 1 small bunch fresh coriander
- olive oil
- 1 heaped teaspoon five-spice (we didn’t have five spice, so used garam masala as a substitute)
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 onion, peeled and finely sliced
- 1 large butternut squash (or pumpkin), halved, peeled, de-seeded and cut into 1 inch chunks
- 200g basmati rice
- 2 x 400ml tinned light coconut milk
- Fresh lime juice (we used 2 limes)
- To make the fragrant soup base, add the lime leaves, chillies, garlic, ginger, lemongrass and a pinch of salt to a pestle & mortar. Chop the top few leaves off your bunch of coriander and leave to one side, then add the rest to the mortar and grind the ingredients, until all of the “bits” have gone. Add a few good splashes of olive oil, the five-spice and ground cumin.
- Heat olive oil in a pan and then the tip this mixture straight in – fry and stir for a couple of minutes so the aromas are released. Add your sliced onion, then cook gently for 8 to 10 minutes.
- Add the squash to the pan and stir well, then pour in the stock. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 20 to 25 minutes until the squash is lovely and soft. At this point, add the rice and give it a really good stir. If it looks a bit dry, you can add a splash of water here. Continue to simmer for about 8 minutes until the rice is almost cooked, then add the coconut milk and bring back to the boil. Simmer for a couple of minutes until hot through and thickened a little.
- Take the pan off the heat, give it a good stir, then taste and season carefully with salt and pepper. Add the lime juice – the amount you need will depend on how juicy your limes are, so keep tasting it as you go. Scatter with more sliced fresh chilli and your reserved coriander leaves before serving.
The original Jamie Oliver recipe shows the soup served in the hollowed out pumpkin/squash. This definitely looks a whole lot more elaborate and striking than serving out of the pan into bowls, but to be honest, we just wanted to get the soup down us, rather than prettify it. Perhaps if we were serving it for friends over for dinner, then this might be a great thing to do, but for a Saturday night dinner for two, it just seemed a step too far. Anyway, this is what Jamie’s looked like. Ours, tasty as it was, looked nothing like this…