food pairing: Spring lamb acorn squash soup with An Ember in the Ashes
April 9, 2016
In the hours that pass as you sit addicted to Sabaa Tahir’s dense and gritty An Ember in the Ashes you’ll need something hearty, to replenish the hollows carved by this haunting book and that sticks to keep you whole. Of course, it is April and the streaming sunshine calls for some airy flavoring. Enter this soup; made warming by thick acorn squash, made a meal by its partner lamb and kept spring-like with its lemony goat cheese tie-in.
... you’ll need something hearty, to replenish the hollows carved by this haunting book and that sticks to keep you whole ...
... roasts into the deep earthiness of a winter squash but with hints of light honeydew sweetness ...
Acorn squash offers a subtle base. An acorn squash is so versatile. It roasts into the deep earthiness of a winter squash but with hints of light honeydew sweetness. This dish focuses on the savory side of the squash but through a few base additions has some reminiscence of its sweeter side.
... the singular crispiness of peas out of the pod is worth planning a
meal around ...
Adding interest to the texture are fresh English peas. English peas aren’t in season very long but when they are offered I always grab them up. The singular crispiness of peas out of the pod is worth planning a meal around. Pops of freshness as you catch the explosion of one of these in your mouth are a little surprise in the mix of the deeper flavors of this soup. (The shortness of the season might make English peas unavailable to you, but don’t worry. Chopped snap peas will add their own crisp. Or, if you’re using frozen peas add them later in the dish to keep them from over cooking.)
... variety of winter to spring ingredients ...
The round flavor of this dish comes from its variety of winter to spring ingredients. Goat cheese brings brightness but plays with the richness of the squash. Rustic, deep textures from root vegetables are contrasted against the more raw taste of the fresh peas and spicy arugula. The lamb does not rest only on its meatiness, but lingers by the candy of caraway seed. And I highly recommend finishing with a nutty addition, such as raw pepitas and crushed pistachios.
Happy savoring, and look for my post discussing An Ember in the Ashes. It will mostly be an exploration of my infatuation, but I think you’ll likely fall for this book too.
Spring Lamb Acorn Squash Soup
1 medium acorn squash
3 orange or yellow carrots
1/2 c shelled English peas (approx 20 unshelled pods)
1/2 c finely chopped arugula
3/4 lb ground lamb
1/3 c goat cheese + more for serving
1/3 c shaved or grated parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp coconut (or other cooking) oil
2 cloves garlic
1 bay leaf
2 tsp rosemary
1/2 tsp caraway seeds
1 tsp turmeric powder
small dash cayenne pepper
1 tsp red wine vinegar
2 c water
2 tbsp to 1/3 c milk (or heavy cream for a bit of decadence)
salt and black pepper to taste
suggestions for serving: handful pepitas and crushed pistachios
Prep and cook time: 1 1/2 to 2 hours
1. Preheat oven to 425F. Cut the acorn squash in half and scoop out the seeds (discard seeds, or save to clean and roast for another snack). Cover with aluminum foil and place on a baking pan. Roast for approximately 1 hour, or until the insides are very soft (pureed) and scoop out easily.
2. While the squash is roasting, season the lamb with black pepper and caraway seeds and set aside. Prepare the veggies by chopping the carrots and parsnips into bite-sized pieces, shelling the peas and chopping the arugula. Chop the garlic roughly (or mince it for a deeper garlic flavor). Finely chop fresh rosemary (if you’re using dried, you’re good to go!).
3. Heat a wide-bottomed soup pan on the stovetop. Add coconut oil. When hot, add the garlic and let cook until fragrant and slightly browned. Remove about half of the garlic and set aside.
4. Add the lamb to the heated pan (combing with the garlic still in pan). Salt the lamb slightly. Cook, using a spatula to gently break apart the lamb into crumbles as it browns. When the lamb has cooked about 3/4 of the way through (and still has some slightly pink spots), use a slotted spoon to remove it from the pan and set aside. Drain the pan of about 1/2 of the meat’s fat, and reserve the drained fat to be added back later.
5. Add the chopped carrots, parsnips and the previously removed garlic to the pan. Add a pinch of salt and black pepper. Let brown for about 5 minutes, stirring about halfway. Add the peas, and again let cook for about 5 minutes, stirring about halfway. Remove most of the vegetables from the pan, leaving about 1/4 of them in the pan, and set the removed vegetables aside.
6. Add the water to the pan with the 1/4 vegetables. Season with red wine vinegar, rosemary, bay leaf and salt and pepper. Let the water heat and gently scrape the bottom of the pan to pull any browned bits into the broth. Raise the water to a gentle boil; and then once reached, reduce the heat to a simmer. Cover and let simmer for about 30 minutes.
7. When the acorn squash is ready, remove from heat and let cool before handling to scoop out the flesh. Scoop out the inner yellow puree and discard the green shell.
8. Add the acorn squash to the vegetable broth and stir or whisk to combine. Remove the bay leaf and discard. Remove the pan from heat, and allow the mixture to cool slightly. Transfer the broth and squash mixture to a blender (or use an immersion blender in the pan). Blend until smooth to your preference. (Remember that hot liquids expand in blenders! Let the mixture cool slightly and don’t fill your blender more than halfway.)
9. If using a non-immersion blender, return the mixture to the pan. Add turmeric and cayenne pepper.* Add salt and pepper to taste. Add the previously set aside vegetables and lamb to the mixture. (If your soup looks too thick for your taste, add a little water. But also note that as it simmers the acorn squash will continue to release some water too). Raise the heat again to a gentle boil, and then decrease heat to a simmer. Cover and let simmer for 30 minutes.
10. Add cheese to the soup and stir to combine. Add milk (in the amount that achieves your desired creaminess). Add back remaining lamb fat. Check your soup, and add salt and pepper as needed. Let simmer for another 15 minutes.
11. Add chopped arugula, reserving some for serving.
12. Serve with a topping of an extra spoonful of goat cheese, pepitas, pistachios and chopped arugula.
* The cayenne will mostly highlight the sweeter tones of the soup, but it can add a kick. To lessen this effect, add the cayenne when you add the cheeses rather than prior to simmering in step 9.