I fell head over heels in love with chai tea several years ago when my friend S took me by the hand, led me into Starbucks, bought me a chai tea latte, put it in my hands and said, “Trust me.” Ever since then I have been a complete sucker for anything with the word “chai” in the title. And so when I ran across this recipe for butternut soup cooked with chai spices…well, they had me at hello. When you think about it, it is kind of genius…butternut is a close cousin to pumpkin, chai spices include a lot of the sweet and spicy flavors you find in pumpkin pie…so it kind of was a match made in heaven.
And to (literally) top it all off, the recipe also calls for a quick and wonderful topping that you make by stirring together a little creme fraiche, a little apple cider and a little cinnamon. Creme fraiche is usually in whatever part of your supermarket where they keep the refrigerated fancy things, but if you have trouble finding it, sour cream will work for this too. You drizzle a little bit on the top of your soup just before serving it, and if you want to get super elegant you can take the tip of a knife and swirl it gently through the creme to make a little design. It’s kind of like Spin Art (remember that, all you children of the 70’s?).
Anyway, I found this delicious little recipe at the Whole Foods website. Whole Foods used to be my supermarket of choice before Fairway moved to town, and then I heartlessly deserted them without so much as a backwards glance. But I still do love their website, which has a load of creative and healthy recipes. And if you don’t have a Fairway near you, Whole Foods is definitely the next best thing.
So there you go, butternut chai soup. If anyone comes across a recipe for chai pizza, call me.
- 1/2 cup crème fraîche
- 1/4 cup apple cider
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 3/4 cup chopped white onion
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
- 1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 3 cups (1-inch cubes) butternut squash
- 3/4 cup chopped fennel
- 3 1/2 cups chicken broth
- 1 cup apple cider
- 1/2 cup whole milk
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- First, make the apple cream: combine crème fraîche, apple cider and cinnamon in a small bowl. Cover and refrigerate to allow the ﬂavors to combine.
- For the soup, melt the butter in a large soup pot over medium-high heat. Add onions and cook, stirring frequently, until translucent, about 6 minutes. Stir in cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice, ginger and cardamom. Cook until fragrant, stirring constantly, about 1 minute.
- Stir in butternut squash, fennel, chicken stock and apple cider. Cover, reduce heat to medium and cook until the butternut squash is tender, about 15 minutes. Take from heat and let cool.
- Blend the soup in small batches until a smooth purée is obtained. Return to pot and stir in milk and salt. Bring soup to a simmer. Taste and adjust seasoning, adding more spice if desired.
- Serve soup with a generous drizzle of apple cream.