I heart butternut soup

Sweet, soft, bright butternut squash is surely one of the most baby-friendly vegetables. But no, not for my little one. Last night I presented her with my favourite roast squash and garlic soup made into a Nigella-Lawson-inspired orzo pasta risotto, and she shivered at the thought of putting any in her mouth. Anyway, here is my recipe for a silky, lightly spicy butternut soup, which I think, in spite of the one-year-old, is bloody good.

Nigel Slater fans will remember that he cooked a tasty butternut soup on Dish of the Day last week. He roasted long strips of the squash skin with rosemary and salt, to make vegetable crisps. I tried to follow his example but my peeler wasn’t sharp enough to remove the skins in usable strips, so I toasted the seeds as a topping instead. If you don’t mind a crunchy husk, the seeds are lovely and nutty, and of course it is a mighty thrifty thing to do, not to waste a single bit.

Roasted butternut and garlic soup with toasted seeds

1 large butternut squash
Vegetable oil for roasting
Half a garlic bulb
1 tsp soft brown sugar
1 small onion
1 litre vegetable stock*
1 thick slice soft bread
Season to taste with a pinch each of smoked paprika, cayenne, black pepper and salt

* I make vegetable stock with a couple of teaspoons of Swiss Vegetable Bouillon enriched with the remains of any vegetables and herbs that are on the turn in the fridge. Today this comprised of squash strands, cabbage, swede and parsley stalks, a bouquet garni with rosemary, bay and thyme, an onion, a carrot and a radish.

Preheat the oven to 200 celsius

Carefully remove the squash seeds and set aside, removing the fibrous strands and putting those in the stockpot. Leave the skin on and cut the squash into chunks about 2-3″ in diameter and place in a roasting dish.

Coat lightly with vegetable oil, I prefer sunflower oil. I spent too long wasting good olive oil on roasting veg, which I think always turns out nicer with a light oil.

Season with salt and pepper and a spinkling of soft brown sugar. Roast in a hot oven for 45-55 mins until soft and starting to brown.

About halfway through the roasting time, throw in a few whole garlic cloves with the skins on.

When the squash is cooked, leave to cool slightly before scraping the soft flesh from the skins and popping the garlic cloves out of theirs. If you still have a stockpot on the boil, chuck in the roasted squash skins for added flavour.

Put the squash seeds in a dry pan on a low heat and leave to toast slowly while you make the rest of the soup.

Fry off the onion, then add the roasted squash and garlic. Strain and pour one litre of vegetable stock into the soup and leave to simmer for about 10 minutes.

Tear in a slice of bread to thicken the soup and blend until smooth and glossy with a hand blender.

Season to taste with a sprinkling of paprika, cayenne and black pepper.

Serve with a dollop of crème fraîche and a few toasted squash seeds.



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