This subtle Moroccan-spiced butternut squash and sweet potato soup has layer upon layer of flavor and texture, and none of them are to be missed. It's topped with crisped ras el-hanout chickpeas, ginger cream made with some of the coconut cream reserved from making the soup, plenty of fresh cilantro, and, surprisingly and amazingly, pomegranate seeds.Yum
Unlike cats and much like children, soup rewards you plentifully for giving it a little extra love and attention. In the case of this soup, which has lots of slightly futzy details, the rewards are truly stupendous. I was incredulous about the necessity, nay, the wisdom of adding pomegranate seeds to a (savory) soup in the original recipe. But, friends, how woefully wrong I was, for it is those aforesaid pomegranate seeds (arils, if we want to be trendy) that blast this soup well into stratospheric levels of taste. Don't skip them. And while you're at it, mince the cilantro, crisp the chickpeas, squeeze out some roasted garlic cloves, and, oh yeah, make some gingery, creamy-but-not cream to go on top, too. Don't worry if it all sounds like too much, I've got a play-by-play strategy written out for you in the recipe that makes it easy to do one step while the previous one is roasting or simmering.
About ras el-hanout
If you're not familiar with ras el-hanout, the "top of the shop" spice blend, it's a wonderful combination of savory and sweet spices, including turmeric, cumin, paprika, pepper, and cinnamon. Different versions are used throughout northern Africa and lend a wonderful flavor to all sorts of dishes. For sources and substitutions, see the spices section of my Israeli Ingredients 101 page.
Steps to making this soup
This soup has four steps: first, you start by roasting the chickpeas along with a whole head of garlic enclosed in foil; then, you start the soup, which requires browning some onion and pulling out some spices, but is otherwise your basic vegetable soup; third, you prepare the toppings: ginger coconut cream, prepping the pom, and mincing the cilantro; and fourth and finally, pureeing the soup (along with the roasted garlic from the oven) and assembling it with all the toppings. If you work in that order, your chickpeas and garlic will be in the oven roasting while you start the soup; and while the veg is simmering away, you'll be prepping the rest of the toppings. So, they rather pleasantly nest into one another.
Looking for more things to do with winter squash and sweet potatoes?
- Maple Roasted Winter Squash and Parsnips with Ras el-Hanout – what can I say, winter squash and ras el-hanout are deeply in love.
- Quick Sweet Potato and Cauliflower Curry – one of my all-time favorites.
- Tel Aviv Grain Bowl – starring beets, sunchokes, and, of course, sweet potatoes (you'll have to read the post to find out what this all has to do with Tel Aviv).
Moroccan-Spiced Butternut and Sweet Potato Soup (parve)
- 1 Tbsp coconut oil
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 large onion - chopped
- 1 medium butternut squash, or 2 packages frozen cubed or pureed squash - peeled and cubed
- 2 medium or 1 large sweet potato - peeled and cubed
- 1 14oz can coconut milk, ¼ cup of the cream reserved
- 2 cups vegetable stock
Crisped chickpeas and roasted garlic:
Coconut ginger cream:
- ¼ cup reserved coconut cream
- 1 Tbsp finely minced ginger
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 8-10 sprigs cilantro, minced
- 1 small to medium pomegranate, seeded
Roast the garlic and chickpeas:
- Heat oven to 385F. Slice the top off the garlic, so that the cloves are visible. Wrap in aluminum foil, pouring a generous drizzle of olive oil over the head before pinching closed.
- Place the chickpeas in an even layer on a sheet pan or baking dish. Drizzle with olive oil, then season with salt and ras el-hanout. Add the foil-covered head of garlic to the pan and roast both in the oven for 45 min.
Start the soup:
- Heat the coconut and olive oil together in a stockpot over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the onion and fry, stirring occasionally, until softened and browned, about 5 minutes.
- Add the dry spices: curry powder, smoked paprika, cumin, cinnamon, Aleppo pepper, ajwain or thyme, salt, and white pepper. Stir and cook for another 1 min.
- Add the cubed butternut squash and sweet potatoes, stirring to coat in the onion-spice mixture. Pour in the the coconut milk and vegetable broth. Bring to a boil.
- When the soup boils, reduce the heat to low. Cover and simmer for 25-30 minutes or until the vegetables are very soft.
While the soup is simmering, prepare the rest of the toppings:
- Make the ginger cream by whisking the reserved coconut cream with the ginger and salt. Set aside to chill in then fridge until ready to use.
- Mince the cilantro and seed the pomegranate.
Finish the soup:
- Remove the stockpot from the heat. Once cooled enough to handle, squeeze out the roasted garlic cloves into the soup. Puree in the pot with an immersion blender.
- Serve drizzled with the cold ginger cream and topped with the crisped chickpeas, cilantro, and pomegranate seeds.