Roast Squash Soup
I’ve never fully appreciated the beauty of Autumn until recently. When I was a teenager, Autumn was a season best avoided as it signaled the return of school, colder mornings and shorter, darker evenings, and although it also marked the return of football training, that never quite made up for the rest. As I get older, I live for the Summer – BBQ’s, days out with Ali and Italian holidays. It’s only now I feel I can truly appreciate all Autumn has to offer. Autumn is the period of calm between Summer and the Christmas build-up and celebrations. It’s a time to reflect on the summer adventures that have passed, take stock and plan for the Winter to come. A transition season – leaves changing colours and falling from the trees, cooler weather and darker evenings, plants and vegetables are dying back, their work done for another year. But be mindful – there are many, often overlooked seasonal gems that only this time of year has to offer.
My favourite of all of these gems are butternut squash and pumpkin. Like most vegetables, butternut squash is available in the supermarkets year round but it really shines at this time. Pumpkin, mostly grown for the Halloween market these days, can be of dubious quality. It’s best bought at your local farmers market if you intend to eat it (which you should!). In general, few squash look pristine but look out for those with unbroken skin and they should feel heavy for their size. Although great for roasting and frying, my favourite way to enjoy Autumn’s finest is in soup form. You can use any squash for this recipe but I love using butternut – you don’t even need to peel it! Roasting it first, brings out the sweetness in the squash, with the caramelization adding depth of flavour. I add just a hint of chilli to offset the sweetness and add a little heat, but you can add more or less depending on your preference.
1 Butternut Squash (approx. 1.2 kg)
1 Leek (finely sliced)
1 Carrot (roughly chopped)
1 stick of Celery (roughly chopped)
1/2 Red Chilli (seeds removed and roughly chopped)
2 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1.2 litre Chicken/Vegetable Stock
Sea Salt and Freshly Ground Pepper
Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees C.
Cut the top and bottom off the squash before cutting in half length-ways. Scoop out all of the seeds (you can rinse these and roast them for 15 minutes if you wish) before chopping the flesh into 2 cm square pieces.
Put the squash, leek, carrot, celery and chilli into a large baking dish. Drizzle over the olive oil and season liberally with salt and pepper. Mix well with your hands before roasting for one hour ( or until everything is tender), mixing everything around every 15-20 minutes.
Remove from the oven and carefully empty all of the contents of the baking dish into a large saucepan, scraping up any stuck on bits in the process. Add the stock to the saucepan, season and bring to the boil.
Use a stick blender to puree the soup (be careful of splashes – you can leave the soup to go cold first if you wish) and taste for seasoning. Squash can need a fair amount of salt to really make it sing but you may wish to limit the seasoning if children will be eating it.
Serve with homemade brown bread and a sprinkling of fresh parsley.