I blame my friend Deb Rankine. Deb’s a remarkably talented, but unrepentant author and purveyor of simple, beyond delicious recipes that please the palate. It was the soup, you see. Couldn’t get it out of my mind. Took photos. Had to have more.
At the September Writers Community of York Region meeting, Chef Deb presented us with a vat of steaming golden soup. It went fast, with folks lining up for seconds. As soon as I came home, I tried to unearth my signed copy of Deb’s Condiment Confidential cookbook, couldn’t locate it in my collection. Deb, being the generous lady that she is, emailed me the recipe.
Listen. I’ve been cooking since I could reach the top of the stove (yes, they had cars back then, with lots of fins and chrome) and I can say without equivocation that The “Best Ever Madras Curried Butternut Squash” is just that. The. Best. Ever.
Usually, when I’m baking or smoking meat, I’ll sort of follow a recipe. This time, I decided to do what Deb instructed. Bought two lovely butternut squash from Vinces Market, onions from the East Gwillimbury Farmers Market, used garlic harvested from our garden and maple syrup gifted from a friend who taps his own trees. My two deviations – substituting organic chicken broth for the liquid and microwaving the squash for 10 minutes to get it soft enough to peel without slicing my fingers.
Step one of the recipe is “dry sauté cinnamon and ginger for 30 seconds until spices begin to perfume the air”. Perfume? An understatement, Deb. The effect was intoxicating. Sautéing the aromatics – garlic, diced onions and Patak’s curry paste ramped up the heady fragrance. I threw in the cubed squash and liquid, scraped up the brown bits and hovered, inhaling the rising steam like it was medicine, impatient for the 20 minutes of simmering to be done. Coincidentally, we have a crew of guys on the roof this week, rebuilding our crumbling chimney. One of them came in to use the powder room. He ventured down the hall, obviously drawn by the scent, and asked with longing, ‘What is that amazing smell?”
A few months ago, my hand mixer drowned in a pan of béchamel sauce, so I spooned the golden chunks into the Vitamix blender and pulsed – added more broth – pulsed – added milk until the container was filled to the brim with the amber almost-soup. Back into the cooking pot with the cup of cream dribbled artistically over the surface, then stirred in. By this time, it was three o’clock. Hub was lounging by the fridge, making small talk and staring at me stirring, holding two oversized cocoa cups in his hands. “Afternoon snack time.”
I dipped in a teaspoon and gave him a taste. His eyes lit up. Slowly, I ladled the cups almost full, both of us silent at the counter, mesmerized by the golden fall of creamy soup. ‘Fridge Whisperer’, indeed. Words like seductive and sumptuous and luscious sprang to mind: If I were a poet, I’d have written an ode. Barista style, I drizzled a spoonful of whipping cream into a lopsided design. I needn’t have bothered with the garnish. We raced out to the deck and sat in the warm September sunlight, with birds swooping over our heads, sipping slowly as we made lots of ummmm sounds. Then we went back for seconds. And no, we did not share with the guys. I figure the leftovers – which are very, very good, mellowly curry-flavoured and cinnamon-toasty – will last until Saturday morning. Then we’ll be making more.