Our veggie box had two huge chunks of bright orange pumpkin in it this week. I don’t particularly like pumpkin, but one thing I do know about squash is that the first thing you should do with it is cut it into chunks and roast it to get rid of most of the water. So into a 200C oven it went, and I used FoodBlogSearch to search for “roasted squash”. Lots of ideas, but this recipe fitted perfectly with the ingredients I had to hand. “Almost vegetarian” is a good description of me too.
Wow! It tasted wonderful — on the basis of this recipe alone I might buy the book it came from, The Flexitarian Table: Inspired, Flexible Meals for Vegetarians, Meat Lovers, and Everyone in Between by Peter Berley, despite the stupid title. The flavour was warm, sweet and spicy, perfect for a chilly autumn evening, it was a lovely deep brick-red, and the blob of spiced cream added a nice contrast. It is one of the best soups I have ever made.
Assuming you have roasted squash on hand it’s easy to make, but even if you don’t, you can put the squash in the oven while you get on with other preparation; I cooked the onions and made an apple crumble for pudding while it was roasting.
I adjusted the recipe slightly; I’m not keen on sage or cloves, so I left them out and used a bay leaf and 4-épices instead. I had some excellent chicken stock from the weekend roast chicken, so I used that, but of course vegetable stock can be used instead.
about 1 kg winter squash
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
2 medium onions, chopped
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
a pinch of 4-épices or allspice
3 garlic cloves, peeled
1 litre stock
200 ml dry cider
Bouquet garni made of a few celery leaves, bay leaf, cinnamon stick — just tie them together with string if you don’t have any muslin
Spiced crème fraîche
100 ml crème fraîche or sour cream
freshly grated nutmeg
ground cinnamon, for sprinkling
chopped parsley, for garnish
Preheat the oven to 200C. Cut the squash into large chunks, remove the peel (I find this easier to do after I’ve chopped the squash into pieces), then cut the chunks again if necessary to end up with pieces of about 5 cm. Put them on a large, rimmed baking sheet, pour over half the olive oil, sprinkle with the salt, then turn with your hands to coat in the oil, ending up with a single layer of pieces. Roast for 25-30 minutes, turning occasionally, till soft and beginning to brown at the edges. Vast quantities of steam came off while I was doing this, showing just how much water there was in it.
While the squash is roasting, melt the rest of the oil in a large, heavy casserole (I used an enamelled cast-iron one) over medium heat. Add the onions and 1/2 teaspoon of salt and cook, stirring, for a minute or two. Stir in the ginger and garlic, cover, reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook gently for 15 minutes, stirring once or twice and lowering the heat if necessary to keep the vegetables from browning, until the onions are soft.
Add the stock and cider, and use a slotted spoon to add the roasted squash to the soup. Add the bouquet garni and the 4-épices and raise the heat to bring the soup to a boil, then reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the crème fraîche with 5 or 6 gratings of nutmeg, several grinds of black pepper, and a pinch of salt.
Discard the bouquet garni. Liquidise or mouli the soup. At this point I made sure I put all the large chunks of squash in the blender, but left some of the onion and liquid unliquidised to give the soup a bit of texture. I think next time I might reserve some of the cooked squash and cut it into small dice to add to the liquidised soup. Season with salt and pepper. Reheat if necessary.
Garnish each bowl of soup with a spoonful of spiced crème fraîche, a dash of cinnamon, and a sprinkling of parsley.