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Butternut squash and red lentils star in this one-pot wonder


Savory Winter Stew

by Anna Herman

Some version of this soup is always on my stove during open house gatherings in fall and winter. Although the recipe is somewhat vague on quantities, almost any combination of vegetables works. The key to a good soup—or any other dish—is the quality of the ingredients. Use whatever you have left from your garden, farmers market or co-op for the best results. Organic olive oil and coconut milk are also recommended. It is good smooth as a soup, or more chunky as a stew with rice or bulgur pilaf. Don’t forget to freeze some for those February nights when you don’t feel like cooking!

Serves 8-10

  • 3tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 to 3 teaspoons cumin seeds, or ground cumin
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon ground hot peppers or flakes
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon fennel seed
  • 4 tablespoons grated fresh ginger (or 1/2-inch piece of ginger, minced fine)
  • 2 onions, minced
  • 3 to 5 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 to 2 carrots, tops removed, chopped fine
  • 1 to 2 sticks of celery, chopped fine
  • 1 butternut squash (or other hard winter squash), peeled, seeded and cubed
  • 1 to 2 cups cleaned and cubed assorted other root vegetables, such as celeriac, parsnip, turnip, potato, etc.
  • 2 cups red lentils
  • 8 to 10 cups water or vegetable stock
  • 1 28-ounce can chopped or crushed tomatoes 
  • 1 to 2 cans coconut milk
  • Optional garnishes


  1. Heat olive oil in a large soup pot.  Add onions and garlic and sauté until the onions are soft and just browning. Add spices and cook another few minutes, stirring often.  
  2. Add all the chopped vegetables, water or stock and lentils. Stir well and bring to a boil. Simmer gently till the vegetables are soft and lentils have become paste.  
  3. Add the tomatoes and coconut milk and continue cooking another half-hour. Season well with salt and black pepper.Adjust other seasonings to your taste.  
  4. Partially or fully purée as you like with an immersion blender or—carefully—in a stand blender. 
  5. Stir in or garnish with chopped cilantro, browned butter and/or thick yogurt (full-fat, Greek style is especially good) seasoned with toasted chopped pecans, minced garlic, salt and pepper. 

Anna Herman is a garden educator who raises chickens, ducks, bees, fruits and veggies in her Mount Airy backyard.

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