I absolutely adore making soup. I’m not quite sure why, but it’s something that I can always count on putting my mind at ease. Taking something as simple as water and turning it into a beautifully fragrant and complex broth is just the best! And then turning that broth into a wholesome pot of (for example) classic chicken soup that offers up spoon after spoon of that one perfect bite is SO satisfying! Plus, it’s a one-pot meal so cleaning up is usually quick and easy, a huge plus for me!
But let’s be brutally honest. I usually don’t have time for all of that. Or, it’s the end of the day, the sun has gone down and the mountain air has turned chilly (or freezing) and all I can think of is a comforting bowl of soup, but time is short and hunger is striking! Now what??? Back home the obvious answer would be any number of boxed broths which put a pot of soup about a half an hour away from your table. But, well, those broths are simply not available here in EC. It was maybe one of the first cooking conundrums I came across when I first got here. So over the years I’ve come up with a bunch of shortcuts to make a relatively quick but equally satisfying soup which I plan on sharing here on my blog.
My first soup recipe seriously hits the spot when soup is all you can think about, plus it’s easy and works with few ingredients and it highlights a few different ways to layer flavor into your soup without having broth as a base. It all starts with roasting zapallo, carrots and garlic. Zapallo (suh-pie-yo) is a very large variety of squash similar to pumpkin or acorn squash and can be used as a substitute for both or vice versa. It’s available at the supermarket as well as open-air makets. It’s extremely economical and has lots of nutritional benefits. While roasting the zapallo and carrots amps up their flavor, roasted garlic is a much more mellow version of itself and therefore can be used in larger quantities to boost flavor without being offensive. I also like to use leeks because they also add lots of flavor without being overpowering. And lastly, this is a blended soup which ensures a quick fusion of flavor without all those hours of simmering. Ooops…one more thing to keep in mind, sea salt and a decent amount of it. Most store bought stocks come with salt so adding salt is usually just to taste but when not starting out with a stock it’s usually pretty necessary to start with a healthy teaspoon and add salt to taste from there. Either way, you cannot be stingy with the salt.
Sometimes Ecuadorian soups are served with a side of popcorn which is just a totally cool little addition. I especially love it with this blended soup because it adds one more layer of flavor, texture and spice all the while being super easy and quick! I popped my corn in a little coconut oil and sprinkled it in sea salt and smoked paprika but these spices could easily be swapped for salt and pepper, chili seasoning or garlic powder. Depends on your mood!
One more thing. I didn’t use a lot of seasoning in the soup on purpose. I really wanted to show just how easy it is to work with natural flavors and still get something delicious without the use of stock but feel free to spice it up. Lots of things would work, including cumin, chili seasoning, cinammon, etc.
Roasted Zapallo (Squash) and Carrot Soup with Spicy Popcorn
3 cups zapallo (or acorn squash), cubed
1 cup carrots, chopped
5 cloves of garlic with their skins still on
2 orange camotes (sweet potatoes), cubed
3 leeks, cleaned and chopped
4 cups of filtered water
popped popcorn sprinkled in sea salt and your choice of spices
Start by melting a dab of coconut oil on a baking pan in a preheated oven set to 400°F (200°C). Once melted, add the chopped zapallo (or squash), carrots and garlic (with their skins still on) to the pan. Mix to coat the veggies with the coconut oil and leave in the oven to roast for 20-25 minutes or until soft and carmelized on the outside, stirring once halfway through. While the zapallo and carrots are roasting, add another dab of coconut oil to a large pot and melt over a medium flame. After it is melted, add the leeks and stir. Cook the leeks until wilted which will only take a couple of minutes. Next add the filtered water, turn the heat up to high and add the camote (or sweet potato) and a teaspoon of sea salt. Once the water is boiling, turn down the heat, cover the pot and allow the leeks and camote (or sweet potato) to simmer for about 20 minutes or until the camote is soft. Turn off the heat. Once the zapallo (or squash) and carrots are roasted to perfection, pull the pan out and seperate the garlic from the rest. Peel the garlic and add to the pot with leeks along with the zapallo and carrots. Now it’s time to blend. If you have a large blender everything should fit in at once but with a small blender it will be necessary to blend in batches. After everything is blended, put the soup back in the pot to reheat and season with a little more salt if necessary and black pepper. Serve the soup with a side of spicy popcorn.