I found inspiration for the flavors of this soup from an episode of Anthony Bourdain's a Cook's Tour where he visited Thailand. There was brief mention of a "Pumpkin Lemongrass soup" as he and his boss at the time dined together at the end of their trip. For me, the thought of pumpkin and lemongrass combined together sounds delicious, and while never trying them together, the combination stuck in my mind which inspired me to come up with a recipe as a way of experiencing those flavors. The addition of lentils, I felt, would add a heartiness to the soup, with the idea that it could be used as the main focal point for a dinner rather than just a starter. The ingredients are pretty straight forward and meld together very well.
2 medium size butternut squash, sliced in half, seeds removed
one stalk lemongrass, outer leaves removed and bruised
32 ounces low sodium chicken or vegetable stock
3/4 cup puy lentils, picked through and rinsed
one head of garlic
2 inner celery stalks with leaves, chopped
1 small onion, peeled and chopped fine
one bay leaf
1/2 tsp dried sage
1/2 tsp ground cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tbsp fresh thyme
salt and freshly ground black pepper
Start by roasting the butternut squash drizzled with olive oil in a preheated 400 degree oven for an hour, then turn off the heat and allow to rest in the oven. Bring the stock with the bay leaf and lemongrass added to a boil, then turn off the heat and allow to steep until ready to use.
In a heavy bottom pot; saute the chopped onion and celery seasoning with salt and pepper until tender, scoop out the butternut flesh and add the pot, along with the roasted garlic, season with cayenne, sage and nutmeg, then allow to lightly saute for a few minutes. Strain the stock over the pan, and mix to combine, bring to a boil then lower heat and allow to simmer until the lentils have cooked. In the same sauce pan used to heat the stock, bring water to a boil then cook the lentils until al dente, about 10 to 12 minutes, rinse with cold water to stop them from cooking. Using an emulsion blender blend soup until smooth, finish by seasoning with salt and pepper, then stirring in the butter and lentils.