Roasted Butternut and Harissa Soup

An overhead view of this creamy roasted butternut and harissa soup topped with pumpkin seed oil and toasted seasame seeds.
An overhead view of this creamy roasted butternut and harissa soup topped with pumpkin seed oil and toasted seasame seeds.

Roasted Butternut and Harissa Soup

Roasted Butternut Harissa Soup. A garden-to-table delight with vegan options & vibrant flavors.
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 15 minutes
Course Main Course, Side Dish, Soup
Cuisine Moroccan
Servings 4

Equipment

  • 1 Roasting Pan
  • 1 Blender or immersion blender
  • 1 cutting board
  • 1 chefs knife
  • 1 Large Spoon
  • 1 Spatula
  • 1 Stovetop Pot

Ingredients
  

  • 1 butternut
  • 2 red peppers
  • 3 carrots
  • 1/2 bulb garlic
  • 1 onion
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 medium apple
  • 1 tsp cardamon
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 2.5 tbsp Harissa paste
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 2 tbsp toasted sesame seeds optional for garnish
  • 1 tsp pumpkin seed oil optional for garnish

Instructions
 

  • Preheat oven to 400°F/ 200° C
  • Cut butternut in half and scoop out the seeds with spoon.
  • Wash Peppers. Wash and trim tops off carrots
  • Peel and halve onion.
  • Peel off papery layers of head of garlic and cut the top to expose the cloves.
  • Add all vegetables to roasting pan. Drizzle olive oil over everything and season butternut with salt and pepper.
    Vegetables for Roasted butternut and Harissa Soup before roasting: Butternut, onion, carrots, garlic, and peppers.
  • Roast in oven for 50 minutes or until butternut is soft.
  • During roasting time rotate red peppers so the skins blackend on each side.
  • Remove from oven and allow to cool enough to handle.
  • Peel, seed, and dice apple.
  • Peel the skins off the red peppers and remove the core and seeds.
  • Scoop the flesh off the butternut out of the peel.
  • Squeeze half the garlic cloves out of the bulb (reserve the other half for another time).
  • Add butternut, red pepper, carrots, onion, garlic, and 1 cup water to blender.
  • Blend on high.
  • Add diced apple, yogurt, milk, and harissa. Blend on high until smooth.
  • Pour soup puree into pot and heat on stove over medium heat until heated through, stirring regularly.
  • Season with salt and pepper.
  • Serve and garnish.
Keyword butternut, Harissa

THE INSPIRATION

The story behind this Roasted Butternut and Harissa soup recipe is strongly intertwined with my strong desire to garden and settle during a time when most people were. 

In 2020, we unexpectedly found ourselves stuck in Botswana for about 8 months due to COVID lockdowns then an additional 9 months in South Africa. While people were adjusting to remote work and recentering life around home, we lived in our Land Rover, experiencing an incredible although unexpected adventure. However, as friends documented their first gardens on Instagram, I too felt the desire to nest as well.  We only reached our nesting period in the summer of 2023.

We spent the first part of the year in South Africa, escaping the long Austrian winter, and returned to Austria in May ready to act. Wildflowers and weeds flourished in the spring during our absence. Having talked about vegetable gardening for years, I was determined that this would be the year.

The Garden

Four images showing the progression of our first vegetable garden in Austria. From compost, to laying the earth, the first sprouts, and then healthy lettuce, radish, and butternut.

I designed our garden bed with scrap building wood from our in-laws’ house renovation project, and I laid out boards to trying make them all uniformed and equal. It was a creative game of Tetris, trying to fit all the scrap wood together. The inside of the frames is a patchwork of small 2x4s, attempting to connect as many boards as possible together in one go.  My eagerness and motivation started to wane when I realized it wasn’t quite as easy as I expected. I am certain I cut a few corners but plowed on.

Once the frame was up, I was ready to go, right? No, of course not; now I had to figure out how to fill it. 

After reading a few different approaches on how to build it up, I used an interpretive “lasagna” approachOur compost had been cooking since the previous Autumn and compacted down from the weight of the snow, becoming rich and plentiful.  We incorporated ground dirt, larger sticks, small sticks, grass cuttings, compost, and mulch.   And then finally, it was time to plant.

I bought these seeds at the end of the summer of 2021. The seasonal timing was wrong, so they sat in our garden shed, packaged in their small, sealed envelopes until I got around to planting them.  When I bought them, I based them off the pictures, certainly not reading the German on the package.  I had envelopes of rainbow carrots, radishes, and several lettuce varietals. We were given two chili plants, and I figured I would throw in two or three fresh pepper cores, curious if anything would grow like that. This would be the first time I grew anything from seed.

I scrutinized the packet’s directions still overlooking the label and laid the seeds based on the diagrams, although I questioned how a radish could grow from one single seed, so I may have tossed in 2-3 extras in each divot. Each day, I scrutinized my raised bed for any sight of life. As soon as I caught sight of my sprouts, I felt this strong responsibility to guard my delicate buds against every invasive post-rain slug and foraging finch, wren, and warbler.

August came, and my garden finally started to produce steadily. My arugula and loose-leaf lettuce did well, while the Vogersalat (lambs’ lettuce) stunted. The pepper plant didn’t yield anything. The chili plants were meager and sad and were later relocated to pots indoors. And my radishes were hearty and abundant. Far more abundant than I expected, in fact. All the rainbow carrots I planted turned out to be radish. Fat, long, colorful, peppery radishes.

Proudly posing and holding my first Radish from our garden in Austria

We went away for a weekend at the beginning of September, and when we returned, this enormous vine burgeoned across half my bed. It grew at such a pace that it spilled over the walls of my garden bed and splayed 2 meters across the grass. I assumed it was an aggressive weed and was ready to rip it out when I approached our neighbor with a green thumb as to what it could be, and she told me it was butternut. The rich compost had butternut seeds in it, and I had no idea they were that indomitable.

I relocated my beautiful lettuce babies so both could thrive in the garden, and by October, I had my first butternut surprise.

The nip in the air blew in, and we knew we would head south for another winter; we were excited to savor the fruits of my labor both deliberate and unexpected. As I cleaned out our fridge, what better way to warm up and then use up that deliciously spicy chili paste lingering in the back – Roasted Butternut and Harissa Soup.

A mound of gourds at the Botanical Garden in Linz in the Autumn.

Roasted Butternut and Harissa Soup Flavor Profiles

Harissa is a spicy chili paste from the Northwest region of Africa, commonly found in Moroccan cooking. It has a delicious peppery taste and pairs well with the roasted butternut’s nutty and sweet flavor. The roasted red pepper adds extra depth with its sweet smokiness. The raw apple’s tartness brightens it.

An overhead view of this creamy roasted butternut and harissa soup topped with pumpkin seed oil and toasted seasame seeds.

Vegan Options

This recipe is easily transformed into a healthy vegan option by omitting the milk and yogurt and adding additional water or vegetable stock to blend. Alternatively, adding coconut milk offers additional creaminess but changes the taste.

Garnish Ideas

Experiment with garnishes to enhance the culinary experience. In a nod to Moroccan cuisine, I toasted sesame seeds. Drizzled pumpkin seed oil on top is frequently used in Austrian food. Adjust the spice level with a dollop of yogurt to cool down or a drizzle of harissa to intensify. For added crunch, try toasting butternut seeds or homemade croutons.

A side angle of the Roasted butternut and harissa soup served in a bowl alongside a napkin, spoon, pumpkin seed oil, and a jar of harissa.

Comment, connect, and share

Comment below and let me know if you’ve enjoyed this recipe or tweaked it and how your Butternut and Harissa Soup turns out. 

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An overhead view of this creamy roasted butternut and harissa soup topped with pumpkin seed oil and toasted seasame seeds.

Roasted Butternut and Harissa Soup

Roasted Butternut Harissa Soup. A garden-to-table delight with vegan options & vibrant flavors. THE INSPIRATION The story behind this Roasted Butternut and Harissa soup recipe