Sunday, October 20, 2013

Julia Spencer-Fleming's Spicy Thai Butternut Squash Soup

We are delighted to welcome guest Julia Spencer-Fleming to Mystery Lovers' Kitchen today!

I was thrilled to be invited to Mystery Lover's Kitchen, because it gives me a chance to talk about one of my favorite things: food! People don't associate my Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne series with cooking, probably because I don't include recipes and my heroine is an Episcopal priest, not a food-related professional. However, as an ex-Army pilot, Clare's pick-up-and-move-in-a-minute hobby was cooking, and the series includes many scenes with Clare in the kitchen, usually teasing out some clues with Police Chief Russ Van Alstyne while whipping up something on her old stove.

Today I'm making one of my old standbys, Spicy Thai Butternut Squash soup. It's my own recreation of a dish I had once in a restaurant, so I make no claims as to it being authentically Thai. It's great for guests as it's easy, delicious and can be vegetarian (using vegetable stock for chicken) or vegan, if you substitute oil for butter. It makes an appearance in To Darkness and to Death when Russ arrives unexpectedly in the late afternoon to find Clare in her bathrobe.

“What kind of soup?” he asked. She could hear it in his voice, too, a deliberate attempt to be casual, as of the two of them hanging out in her house while she was practically undressed was a normal thing.

“Butternut Squash. I made it yesterday, It has squash, onions, chicken broth, peanut butter.” She pulled the Tupperware bowl from the bottom shelf and placed it on the counter.

“Uh...” he looked dubious. “I'll pass.”

Foolish Russ. Later on in the scene, he takes a taste and changes his mind. Here's what you'll need:

2 small or one large butternut squash, cubed

1 onion, diced

1 to 2 tsp ginger, to taste

2 tbs Butter or oil for sauteeing

4 cups chicken or vegetable stock

2/3 cup coconut milk or cream of coconut (the first makes it strictly savory, the second a blend of sweet and hot)

3 heaping tbs natural peanut butter (never the processed kind!)

1 tsp cumin or to taste

several dashes hot pepper sauce or ground habenero pepper

In a large pan, heat the butter or oil.

Add onions, let saute for a minute

Add cubed butternut squash, saute for a minute or two

Add ginger.

Add vegetable stock to cover (this is usually the whole 4 cups for the amount I make.)

Boil until the squash is soft and easily pierced with a fork.

Remove from heat, shift the squash from the pot to a food processor. If you don't have one of these useful devices, you can also gently mash the squash for a chunkier soup.

Puree, then return to the pot.

Mix in the coconut milk or cream of coconut.

Stir in the peanut butter.

Add cumin and hot sauce/pepper. Adjust to taste – I often wind up adding a little more ginger here.

It's always nice to let it simmer a while, but this soup is good served straight away as well. Enjoy!

Julia Spencer-Fleming's New York Times bestselling books have won multiple awards, including the Anthony and Agatha, and have been Edgar and RT Reader's Choice nominees.  The next Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne novel, Through the Evil Days, comes out on November 5th. You can find Julia at her website, her readerSpace, on Facebook and on Twitter as @jspencerfleming. She also blogs with the Jungle Red Writers.


  1. Oh Julia, you look so cute in the apron--you should have a cooking show!

    MLK readers--if you haven't read Julia's series, you must start today because you are way behind and they are so good! The first one, IN THE BLEAK MIDWINTER, won almost every award out there, and the newest, THROUGH THE EVIL DAYS, is coming November 5!

  2. Welcome to Mystery Lovers Kitchen, Julia! That's lovely looking soup. I can almost taste it,

    I enjoy your books and now I see I'll enjoy your recipes too.


  3. Julie, welcome to MLK! Your soup looks delicious, and I'm bet hubby would like it since he's a huge fan of peanut butter.

    I've already reserved my copy of Through the Evil Days from the library even though it isn't in yet! Can't wait!

  4. Julie, welcome. What a lovely fall edition. Love butternut squash. And it's so good for you! Congrats on all your wonderful book success. Love it.

    Daryl / Avery

  5. Thanks for welcoming me everyone! And Lucy, thanks for remembering my new book - I was so focused on getting all the photographs right I completely forgot to plug my upcoming release!

    Maine Moonlight, I can't cook without an apron on. I have two favorites:"Have You Hugged an Episcopalian Today" and my huge Common Ground Fair apron.

    1. I chuckled because I just read one of your books in which someone is wearing that apron. Our church ladies need those for the next time they are stuffing 600 lobster rolls in a morning.

  6. Thanks for joining us today! I'm so glad you are in the pictures. Everyone concentrates on the food so much that we often don't see our author friends.

    Your soup would be perfect here today. We're having the first real cold snap, and we all want something warm.


  7. I think it's lovely that you appear in your pictures (I'll have to suggest that to my husband--but he's usually around only for the final plating and eating parts of the recipe). This is a delightful recipe, perfect for the season. Wonder if I have all the ingredients...

  8. This sounds delicious!
    Can you estimate about how many cups of squash that would be? I get lazy and by it already peeled and diced, so it's hard to guess how a package equates to a whole squash.