Considering the distinct lack of any summer worth talking about this year, I was surprised when autumn’s arrival came as such a shock to the system. You would think I would have been prepared for it, but the gale force winds and ‘I dare you to step outside’ torrential rain, made the last few months seem like one long blissful evening on the terrace. I found the drawing in of the evenings the most difficult thing to deal with, in fact I was almost indignant - ‘summer cannot be over already, it never bloody began!’
All that being said we are almost in October, so we might as well embrace it, and with the glut of gorgeous autumnal produce very nearly in full swing, there is lots to enjoy. I even got my hands on my first onion squash of the season yesterday – I had to practically pole vault the fruit stand to get to it though, as a very determined looking ‘yummy mummy’ could be seen fast approaching from the other side (she obviously got the celeb’ chef memo that onion squash is the vegetable to cook with this season). The pole vault was worth it though for the glorious dinner I made with the onion squash, paired with earthy puy lentils and a rosemary and chili salmoriglio, it was just perfect. (Check it out on our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/theGFgourmet)
And so to another squash then for this soup, the butternut variety, probably the most widely known and widely available and fortunately very tasty too. It seems to be a match made in heaven with cinnamon, so I fired a few quills in to the base, but you could of course use the ground variety. The chili gives it a gentle background heat; we are not trying to blow anyone’s brains out here, so even the faint hearted should be well able to tolerate it.
So, if like me you have been fighting off the end of the summer, nestle in for the night with this velvet soup and I can guarantee that you will have fully reconciled yourself to autumns chilly arrival by the time you have finished your first bowl. In fact you may even find yourself rather looking forward to it!
Serves 6 – 8
1 red onion, chopped
4 Cloves garlic - chopped
1 large butternut squash, peeled, seeds removed, chopped into chunks
2 Carrots, peeled and chopped into chunks
2 sticks celery, chopped into chunks
2 red chili, chopped
1.5 tsp ground cinnamon or 3-4 good quality cinnamon quills
Good pinch of dried chili flakes
0.5 tsp ground ginger
1.2 L Vegetable or chicken stock
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Extra virgin olive oil
Small handful of parsley, chopped
Preheat the oven to 200 C.
Toss the chopped butternut squash in enough olive oil to coat the skin, season with sea salt, pepper and a good pinch of dried chili flakes. Roast in the oven for 25-30 minutes until the squash is golden and cooked through. (Roasting the squash really intensifies the flavour and makes for a deeper tasting soup).
While the squash is roasting, place a large pot over a medium flame and heat a about 2tbsp of olive oil. Add in the onion, carrots, celery, chopped fresh chili, ground ginger and cinnamon and cook gently over a medium/low heat for about 20-25 minutes, until the onions are completely softened and beginning to caramelise. Stir every now and again to prevent the vegetables from sticking.
When the butternut squash is just finished roasting, add the garlic into the large pot with the other vegetables, turn up the heat and cook for a few minutes to release its flavour. Make sure the garlic does not catch and burn as the acrid taste will ruin the soup. After a minute or two, add the roasted squash into the pot stir everything together and then cover with the stock and bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer gently for a few minutes making sure the carrots and celery are cooked through.
Let the soup cool slightly and then blitz it in a blender or food processor until smooth. Taste and adjust the seasoning. If you find the soup is very thick, you can think it down a little with some more stock or some rice milk. If you do this, add the liquid in slowly so as not to thin it too much.
Serve the soup with the chopped parsley scattered over and a drizzling of oil on top.