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Creamy Butternut Habanero Soup

This is a delicious hearty, smooth soup that is a variation on my Carrot Habanero soup. Perfect for warming you up on a cold evening. The sweetness and tartness of the apple and orange complement the creamy coconut milk and squash beautifully. For folks who don’t like spicy, I have made this soup without the peppers and it is still amazing. It doesn’t last long in my house either way. I love the fried sage garnish described in the wonderful Practical Paleo cookbook. It adds a nice crunchy herbal accent to the soup.

A note about habanero peppers – many people are comfortable handling, cutting and deseeding them, but I like the technique of piercing them several times with a knife to infuse the heat into the soup without the intense burning. Increasing the number of peppers and time cooked will increase the heat. You can start with just one, and scoop it out after it has cooked a fraction of the time, and gradually increase your comfort zone in the future with handling the peppers if they are new to you but you want to experiment with this spicy food. I pierced 3 large habanero peppers for this last batch, sauteed them with the rest of the vegetables, then let them simmer in the slow cooker for about 6 hours with the rest of the soup and I have to tell you it was pretty hot. As in if I had it to do over again, I would have used maybe two and scooped them out after 2 hours. We still gobbled the soup up and took seconds in between sweating a bit and blowing our noses.

You can prepare this in a slow cooker or a Dutch oven or soup pot (if using a slow cooker, just scrape/ladle the veggies into the slow cooker after the deglazing stage, then add the remaining ingredients, cover and cook on low 6-8 hours.) If you use the slow cooker method, add 2 cups of water as it gets pretty thick. This yields about 6 large servings.

Ingredients

1.5 tablespoon fat (coconut oil, ghee, bacon grease or pasture butter (I used 1 tablespoon coconut oil, 1/2 tablespoon butter) plus about 1 tablespoon of fat to fry optional sage leaves for garnish
2 cups thinly sliced leeks (about 2 large, washed, white and pale green parts only)
1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cubed
1 cup chopped peeled carrots (about 2 medium)
1 cup chopped celery (about 2-3 stalks)
1 large Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored and chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1-3 whole habanero peppers, depending on desired heat (see above note)
1/4 cup dry white wine*
4 cups free range chicken broth (preferably home made)
Juice of one orange
1 teaspoon of orange zest (optional)
1 can coconut milk (14 ounces) reserving a few tablespoons for garnish if desired
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon dried sage or 4-5 fresh leaves, plus a few leaves extra per serving for frying later for garnish (optional)
Sea salt and black pepper to taste

Preparation

  1. Heat the fat in a Dutch oven or soup pot over medium-high heat.
  2. Add leek, butternut squash, carrots, celery, apples and garlic, and sauté 7-10 minutes or until tender and browning.

  3. Stir in the wine, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. (This is called deglazing the pan. See below for alcohol-free options.)
  4. Pierce the habaneros several times with a knife and add to the pot. (Transfer the vegetables to a slow cooker if you are using that.)
  5. Add the chicken stock, orange juice (and if juicing the orange, zest some of the peel) and coconut milk, then add spices, and stir to combine the ingredients.and bring to a boil.
  6. Partially cover, reduce heat and simmer 30-40 minutes. (Or add 2 cups of water and cook for 6-8 hours on low if using a slow cooker.)

  7. Remove and discard habaneros (see note above).
  8. Blend the ingredients using an immersion blender (or transfer in batches to a blender) until smooth.
  9. Ladle into bowls. Garnish with reserved coconut milk and fried sage if desired.

* If you are avoiding all alcohol for any reason, (Whole30, anyone?) you can use almost any liquid to deglaze the pan, such as stock and lemon juice or vinegar diluted in water. There are a lot of good alternatives discussed here.