The Republic of South Africa is an endlessly fascinating land. Its history, culture, people and topography are incredibly diverse and to me, very special. In the mid 17th century, the Dutch East India company established a trading post in South Africa. This post was directly in the "Spice Route" and served and replenished sailors between Europe and Asia. The Dutch contributed their love of meat and desserts, the Dutch's Muslim slaves cooked with delicious spices and slow-cooked methods, the French Hugenots brought with them a passion for wine, the Portguese brought chilis, piri-piri and a way with fish and seafood, the British contributed their pies and puddings, the German settlers brought the craft and love of sausages and the Indian laborers brought their variety of curries and delicacies. What I like most about cooking in South Africa is that the best "regional" dishes represent a very diverse fusion of flavors, often from at least two continents. The people have a penchant for that sweet-n-sour combination, but also really have a palate for spices and curries. Many of the best chefs and home cooks in South Africa are still following those bold traditions today.
A couple of years ago, my mother clipped out an article from her local newspaper and sent it to me in the mail, knowing how much we love South African cooking at Scrumptious Street. (I'm sorry if you followed that link, it's is truly one of the worst websites I have ever seen). She has been sending me newspaper articles for years and I always feel happy and nostalgic opening a letter from her that contains a note and a folded up clipping. This particular clipping, had a recipe from Executive Chef Grant Cullingworth at Table Bay Hotel, in Cape Town. This soup is RIGHT in the heart of the cooking we love at Scrumptious Street. I made the soup, and it is spectacular and deemed "our favorite". Matter of fact, here is a photo I took of Mr. Scrumptious enjoying the soup to the very last drop!
he is licking the bowl.
I've adapted and embellished a bit over the past two years, but this credit all goes to Chef Cullingworth. Here is the way I am making the Butternut Squash and Roasted Banana Curried Soup these days. For those of you at last weekend's NYC Food Blogger's party, I tripled this recipe.
Serves 6 - 8
1 butternut squash, cleaned, peeled and diced
2 T. dark brown molasses sugar or dark brown sugar
2 T. honey
4 T. unsalted butter
1 ripe banana, unpeeled
½ medium onion, peeled and chopped
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
1 celery stalk, peeled and chopped
1 clove garlic, peeled and chopped
1 tsp. medium hot curry powder
½ tsp. ground coriander seeds
¼ tsp. ground nutmeg
¼ tsp. ground cinnamon
1 c. coconut milk
1 c. chicken or vegetable stock, plus extra
juice of 1 lime
kosher salt and freshly group black pepper to taste
garnish: fresh cilantro, pumpkin seeds, pumpkin oil
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Sprinkle diced squash with brown sugar, honey and 2 tablespoons butter and roast in 350-degree oven until caramelized and soft to the touch, about 20 minutes; roast the unpeeled banana in the oven at the same time.
Melt the other 2 tablespoons butter in a large saucepan on medium-low heat and sweat the onion, celery and carrot for a few minutes until tender and onion is transluscent. Add the garlic, curry powder, coriander, nutmeg and cinnamon and cook slowly for a few more minutes.
Remove the banana from its skin, slice and add it with the butternut and its juices to the pan, along with the coconut milk and chicken (or veggie) broth. Simmer until hot. Remove from heat and ladle the soup into blender in small batches. Blend the soup in a blender until smooth. Adjust to consistency desired with more broth, if necessary. Add fresh cilantro, lime juice and salt and pepper to taste. Blend again until smooth and if you want a very delicate soup, pass the soup through a chinois or household strainer using a rubber spatula to press the soup through the strainer.
The soup should be served hot, so return to stovetop and gently reheat if necessary. Pour soup into bowls and garnish with a drizzle of pumpkin seed oil, a few toasted pumpkin seeds and a sprig of fresh cilantro.