As one of the chefs at radha yoga & eatery in Vancouver, I’m grateful to cook in a restaurant where the harmony of the space and the intentions that we bring to our work are valued as much as the ingredients we put into the food.
I see cooking as a holistic art, and a sacred service that impacts all levels of our being. When I first became interested in cooking professionally, I was subconsciously wondering, “What am I nourished by? What is the essence of life?” I later realized that I gained nourishment by giving nourishment to other people, cooking for them with love. Through my study and practice of yoga, I recognized that each time we eat we create ourselves. Working with natural, vibrant foods, we reconnect with the elements of nature.
When I think of winter comfort foods, butternut squash soup is one of the first that comes to mind. The balance of elements within us, and in our environment, is always changing. As the weather cools, it is helpful to balance the cooling forces outside by introducing more warming foods into our diets. In this soup, as in any cooked-food recipe, the fire in the cooking temperature transforms the raw ingredients. Fire is also present in the pungency of the onion, ginger, chili and pepper and in the warmth of the cinnamon and cumin.
While pungent tastes are stimulating and heating, the ingredients with sweet tastes, like squash and coconut milk, represent the earth and water elements, and provide a soothing, emotionally satisfying effect while giving strength and increasing tissue development. Although overuse can create a cooling effect, sweet tastes are grounding and comforting during the harsher winter climate.
roasted butternut squash soup with ginger, basil and coconut
preparation time: approximately 1 hour 30 minutes
approx. 3 lbs. butternut squash
1 tbsp. olive oil, plus approx. 2 tsp. for coating the squash
1 large onion, diced
2–3 tbsp. fresh ginger, minced or grated
1 tbsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. ground cumin
½ tsp. turmeric
½ tsp. cinnamon
pinch red chili flakes
6 cups vegetable stock or water
1 tsp. salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
juice of 1 lime (2–3 tbsp.)
¼ cup fresh basil, chopped
¼ cup fresh cilantro, chopped (optional)
1 cup coconut milk
- Preheat the oven to 375°F. Cut the squash in half and scoop out the seeds. Brush the cut sides with olive oil and place them cut-side down on an oiled baking sheet. Bake until soft, approximately 40 minutes. Scoop the squash from the skins once cool enough
- Heat the remaining olive oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add the diced onion and grated ginger and stir while cooking until they are soft, about 8 minutes. Add the coriander, cumin, turmeric, cinnamon and chili flakes, and cook for another
2 minutes, continuing to stir.
- Add the squash, along with the vegetable stock or water, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer and cook for 10–15 minutes.
- Add the lime juice, herbs and coconut milk. Lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves could also be added to this recipe to create a distinctly Thai taste. Blend until smooth, adding more water if needed to reach desired consistency.
- Taste and adjust seasoning to balance the salty, pungent and citrus notes. Ladle into bowls and garnish with extra coconut milk, more herbs, or anything else that inspires you. Enjoy!