Curried Butternut Squash Soup with Paneer (Indian Cheese) Croutons and Turmeric Oil

  • Level: Intermediate
  • Total: 8 hr
  • Prep: 30 min
  • Inactive: 6 hr
  • Cook: 1 hr 30 min
  • Yield: 1 1/2 quarts, 6 first-course servings
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Ingredients

2 pounds butternut squash, halved and seeds removed

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus a pinch

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon Madras curry powder

3/4 cup chopped onion

1/2 cup chopped carrot

1/4 cup chopped celery

1/4 cup minced ginger

1 tablespoon minced garlic

3 1/2 cups chicken stock

1/2 cup heavy cream

2 tablespoons chopped cilantro leaves

2 tablespoons butter, room temperature

2 slices thin sandwich bread, crusts removed

1/2 cup paneer cheese, recipe follows

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric

8 sprigs cilantro, for garnish

Indian Cheese:

4 quarts whole milk

4 tablespoons distilled white vinegar

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Place the squash cut side up on a parchment lined sheet pan. Season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Invert to the cut side down, and drizzle with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Place in the oven and roast until the skin is golden brown and the squash is tender, about 50 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Once cool enough to handle, use a spoon to scoop the squash out of its skin and set aside until ready to use.
  3. Set a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil and once hot, about 30 seconds, add the curry powder and toast, stirring continuously for 1 minute. Add the onions, carrots, celery, ginger and garlic to the pan and saute, stirring occasionally, until lightly caramelized, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add the chicken stock and reserved squash to the pan and bring the stock to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook the soup for 15 to 20 minutes, or until all the vegetables are softened.
  4. Remove the soup from the heat and process with an immersion blender (or in batches using a bar blender) until smooth. Season with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and a pinch of pepper. Add the cream and chopped cilantro to the soup and keep warm as you make the croutons.
  5. Spread the butter on both sides of the sandwich bread. Set a 10-inch saute pan over medium-low heat. Place the bread in the pan and saute until golden brown on both sides, about 2 minutes per side. Remove from the pan and allow to cool. Once cool enough to handle, spread 1/4 cup of the paneer on 1 side of both slices of bread. Use a knife to cut diagonally across the bread to make 2 triangles. Cut each triangle diagonally again to make a smaller triangle. Reserve for plating the soup.
  6. To make the turmeric oil, combine the extra-virgin olive oil with the turmeric and stir until combined.
  7. To plate the soup, place 1 cup of the soup in each of 6 warmed soup bowls. Float a crouton in the center of the soup, place a sprig of cilantro on top of the paneer, and drizzle a teaspoon of the turmeric oil around the crouton.

Indian Cheese:

  1. Start by boiling the milk in a big pan, enough to hold all at the same time. Stir the milk constantly from the start, so that milk doesn't burn or stick to the bottom of the pan. If it burns, then there will be parts of burnt milk in cheese and it won't be as white as it should be. When it starts to come to a boil, add vinegar at that time and stir constantly. It will break and turn into cheese. Now, put a thin cotton cloth over the sieve and drain all the contents of the pan over it. Wash it under running water with your hand so that the smell of vinegar goes out. Now drain it and put it under something heavy and let it sit for 4 to 6 hours. Remove it from the cloth and cut it and use it as required; this is the hard version. It can also be used after it is washed, which is the soft version.
  2. Recipe courtesy Nidhi Gupta

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