After a very long week at work, college and school, we are all craving warmth and soothing comfort. Our minds are preoccupied with trying to keep some sort of an order to 2016 and make plans in a concise, structured manner. But boy, that is proving to be difficult – for all of us. There are trips to be taken around the country to look at universities, preparations for exams, personal growth, freedom and independence. There are fun times to be had, sunny days together, trips and celebrations. There are heart-wrenching goodbyes and changes too. And decisions to be made that will shape the future. All this is very exciting but a bit daunting at the same time.
So to bring things down a notch and to give us a break from the spinning wheel, we made yesterday’s Friday night a real rock’n’roll start to the weekend. Woolly blankets, lights dimmed and hands wrapped around the warm bowlfuls of my butternut squash and rosemary soup. Sprinkling of nigella and pumpkin seeds, swirl of sour cream and chunks of sourdough bread to mop up the soup. Human / dog sandwich on the sofa and rerun of “Breaking Bad”. Wonderfully restorative for mind and body.
You know by now that I am a big fan of soups. And all things squash & pumpkin. For me, their gorgeous taste and colours are not just limited to Autumn, I’m happily including them in my kitchen from October to April. And not just in cooking…
Here is a result of sitting down in front of the fire and staring at a stack of pumpkins next to it, including this one, mind wandering. Dia De Los Muertos skulls, Sharpie and few minutes of doodles later, hey presto. What, you have never used squash as an alternative to a canvas? Surely, I can’t be the only one!
That was back in October and now this guy has made its way into our soup. I have stored it in our cold conservatory and despite Mr A’s scepticism, I knew the flavour would be preserved by the cold and not impaired at all. Too often we have a bit of a disagreement about how long fruit and veg are good for with Mr A more willing to stick to dates whilst I just ignore them.
I always roast my butternut squash for this soup – I love how the hot oil and temperature bring out the sweet, almost caramel like flavour of this fruit (yes, technically speaking we are using the fruit as the vegetable) So don’t skip this step. If you find yourself with few left over chunks of roasted squash, chuck them together with some cooked quinoa, pine nuts, crumbled feta, fresh parsley and lemon zest for a tasty winter salad. Make the soup as thick or as thin as you like by adding less or more of the stock. Serve it with a swirl of sour cream, crème fraîche or quark to contrast the sweetness. And don’t omit the rosemary either – it’s wonderfully warming and aromatic here. Feel free to use different toppings but I am currently in love with the pungent darkness of nigella seeds and vibrant green of untoasted pumpkin seeds. Here is the recipe:
- 1 large butternut squash (about 750 grams)
- 2 tbsp of olive oil
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 3 small sprigs of rosemary plus an extra one
- 1 Spanish onion
- 3 stalks of celery
- 1 litre of vegetable stock
- black pepper and salt to taste
- sour cream, crème fraîche or quark to serve with
- toasted seeds, croutons, chunks of bread
Preheat the oven to 180°C and place a large roasting tray in the oven so that it heats up whilst you prepare the ingredients.
Peel and cut the butternut squash into chunks. Strictly speaking, you don’t have to peel the squash as the skin will also soften during the roasting but it you are planning on using few chunks for the salad mentioned above, then go ahead and remove the skin. Peel the garlic cloves and set aside.
Carefully remove the hot tray from the oven and spread the squash and garlic on it. Drizzle with 1 tbsp of olive oil, season with pepper and salt and mix together to make sure everything is well coated. Remove the leaves from two of the rosemary stalks and sprinkle on the squash. Place it in the oven and roast for 20 minutes until the chunks soften and their edges are bronzed and caramelised. Remove from the oven and set aside.
Whilst the squash is roasting, chop the onion and the celery. Heat 1 tbsp of olive oil in a large pan when hot, add the onion and celery to the pan. Cover the pan, turn down the heat and let the veg sweat for 10 minutes or so – you want the onion to be translucent and the celery bright and green. Now add the roasted squash and garlic into the pan. Don’t forget to scrape the roasting tin to remove all of those delicious crusty bits, they are full of flavour. Add the stock and allow it to come up to boil. Let it cook for 10 minutes or so upon which time the squash should start to collapse a little.
Blitz the soup with a blender until you reach the desired consistency. Chop the remaining rosemary sprig really finely and sprinkle into the soup. Give it a stir to combine. Ladle the soup into bowls and proceed to dress with various toppings. Do use sour cream, crème fraîche or quark to swirl through the soup. Croutons, seeds, chunks of bread are all an excellent addition too. Wrap your hands around the hot bowl, take a deep breath and just be. Enjoy x