Monday 30 August 2010

Butternut Squash and Apple soup

Making soup is a very pleasurable experience for me - I find it very therapeutic!

This is the soup I made today. I reckon it is pretty appropriate for the time of year. Although the main ingredients (Butternut Squash and Cooking Apples) were not actually from my garden, these are fruit and veg that are in their prime in England in late August / early September, and are widely available. The apples were from that massive batch given to us by our friend Rosemary. My garden contributed a solitary chilli to this recipe (if you discount the herbs that went into the stock).

Since this is supposed to be a gardening blog (Ha Ha!), I'm not going to give detailed quantities / timings / temperatures etc for the recipe, just some general advice. When making soup I tend not to worry too much about precise quantities anyay, I just do it by "instinct"...

Step 1. Get some good stock (plan ahead here). I suppose bottled "bouillon" or a stock cube would do, but I think good home-made stock is the key to a good soup. We had a roast chicken for dinner on Saturday evening, so yesterday I made some stock with the carcass -- and some herbs from the garden (including a few leaves from the Celeriac which adds a nice bit of "umami".)

Home-made chicken stock

Step 2. Assemble the other ingredients. A whole Butternut Squash; a few cooking apples (I used about 300g peeled weight); a large onion; one small chilli, or half a big one; about 1 litre of good stock; some oil; salt and pepper. You'll need a big knife to prepare the squash.

The assembled ingredients
Step 3. Peel and roughly chop the onions. Cut the chilli and remove seeds and inner membrane. Reserve both for later.

Onions and Chilli prepared

Step 4. Quarter the squash. Remove seeds and stringy membranes from the interior. Place it in a roasting pan. Coat it with a little oil, and grind a bit of black pepper onto it.

The Butternut Squash ready for the oven

Step 5. Roast the squash in the oven (about 200 degrees) for about 45 minutes, or until it looks a bit caramelised at the edges -- like this...

Butternut Squash roasted

Step 6. Meanwhile, peel, core and roughly chop the apples and place in a small saucepan with about a tablespoonful of water.

Apples ready to be cooked

Step 7. Cook the apples over a low heat for just a few minutes, until they fall, and make a nice fluffy puree. [NB: Dessert apples will not fall like this.]

Apples cooked

Step 8. When the squash is cooked, the skin will be "blistered" and will hopefully look like this.

Butternut squash ready for skinning
Step 9. Skin the squash. Dicard the skin, keep the flesh. (Obviously!). Chop the flesh into roughly 5cm cubes.

Butternut squash peeled and roughly chopped
Step 10. Sweat the chopped onions in a large saucepan over a low heat for a few minutes, so that they soften but do not colour-up.

Onions cooking

Step 11. Put the stock into the saucepan with the onions and chilli, along with the roughly chopped Butternut Squash. Bring it to a slow boil.

Stock, squash and chilli added

Step 12. After a few minutes, add the apple puree. You can also add salt and pepper to taste.

The apples added
Step 13. (It would be Step 13, wouldn't it? Unlucky for some..) It's at this point that I have to confess I lost the plot a bit and forgot to photograph the rest of the proceedings! I shall describe them in words therefore.

Step 13 then. Bring the pan to the boil, and simmer gently for about half an hour. The texture will still be fairly chunky, but all the ingredients will be soft.

Step 14. Turn off the heat and let the mixture cool for a few minutes.

Step 15. Liquidise the soup in a blender or food-processor, or using a stick blender, until smooth, and return  it to the rinsed saucepan.

Step 16. Warm the soup up when you are ready to eat it. Serve with fresh crusty (home-made?) bread. Enjoy!

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