It really is soup time of year and unusually I have invested a little more time than normal into making it. Instead of cooking ‘off piste’ which I have a naughty habit of doing, I have actually been reading and what is more, following some recipes, that is after all why they are there!! A few years a go I pulled an article from ‘Food and Travel’ and slowly worked through all the suggested soup recipes. The article is so war-torn now it deserves to be framed, hence why I decided to treat myself and invest in the book the recipes originally derived from. Hunted down on Amazon for the absurd second-hand price of £1.57 plus postage, I was thrilled when said book turned up, and “in good condition” I may add.
Soup to me is the ultimate comfort food, and come to that easy food, and cheap. It works perfectly for lunch with a hunk of bread, but can also be tarted up for a starter in the evening. It usually freezes well, and assuming it is not served with lashings of cream tends to be packed full of goodness and healthy things, vegetables and stock being the lynch pins. I guess it is also a time of year ‘thing’, what with the evenings drawing in, leaves falling from the trees, log fires, and crisp autumn air, soup is just the perfect antidote as a pick me up. Autumn colors also lend themselves to soup, harvest suppers, bonfire night, even Halloween, so all in all it’s my ideal partner for the change of seasons, the perfect friend to prepare me for the longer, darker days of winter ahead.
Poor Mr.P has hence been on a bit of a soup safari, and he’s hanging on in there, enthusiasm still intact and appetite for soup still evident. His favourite to date being the ‘hot and sour soup’ , which is a clear Thai broth with prawns and mussels. My favourite is the ‘cauliflower and dolcelatte’, Josie’s favorite being the ‘butternut, ginger and coconut’, the weekday favorite being, ‘tomato and beetroot’ – cunningly using up that famous glut of beetroot from my kitchen garden. However, in order not to overkill you with choice, the one that I feel holds its’ own at precisely this time of year, the one that comes top of the seasonal charts, is the butternut variety!
I adore the burnt orange color, and think it works particularly well with bonfire night and Halloween looming. It is just what witches would order, slightly spicey, a bit unpredictable because of the coconut milk, yet velvet smooth and heart warming, perfect broomstick rocket fuel! With my own witches hat on, I actually brew up 2 very different butternut soups one is the one noted above, taken straight from Tom Kime, ‘Exploring Taste and Flavour’, the other being my own creation, and is rather more traditional, using apples, chilli and ginger. Both are fabulous autumn fare and quite delicious in their own unique ways, one quite ‘English’, and one quite ‘Asian’. I will leave you with the 2 recipes – take your pick they are both wonderfully comforting and extremely good.
Bonfire Night Spiced Butternut and Apple Soup
1kg butternut squash, peeled and cut into cubes
Splash of olive oil
Splash of maple syrup
2 garlic cloves, peeled and cut roughly
4cm ginger, peeled and chopped finely- or grated
1 red chilli, chopped roughly
1 onion, chopped roughly
500ml of chicken stock or vegetable stock
4 small or 2 large, eating apples peeled and chopped roughly
200ml of milk
Pre-heat the oven to 200C/400F/ gas mark 6
1. Place the butternut, onion, garlic, chilli and apple on a baking tray – splash over the olive oil and maple syrup, a good pinch of Maldon sea salt and grind of black pepper and roast for 30 minutes until soft and slightly caramelised.
2. Place the chicken stock in a liquidizer with the roasted vegetables, ginger and milk and puree until really smooth, add more stock or milk depending on consistency and richness required.
3. Return the puree to the pan and add some Maldon sea salt and a good ground black pepper and reheat.
Serve with a swirl of cream and some chopped fresh herbs, parsley and hazelnuts works well or just some fresh thyme.
P.S: A note on stock – it is always preferable to use homemade, however, if the cupboard is bare (!) most of the large supermarkets sell fresh stock, if you can’t get hold of this I would recommend just using water and not bothering with stock cubes at all.
Creamy Butternut Squash Soup with coconut cream, ginger and coriander – Tom Kime
1 kg of butternut squash, peeled and cut into 2cm cubes
3 tablespoons of olive oil
1/2 bunch of fresh coriander
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
4 cm fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1 red chilli, de-seeded and finely chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
2 sticks of celery, finely chopped
500ml homemade vegetable or chicken stock
400ml coconut cream
juice of 1 lime
Preheat the oven to 200c.
1. Mix the butternut squash with 2 tablespoons of the oil, salt and pepper and spread out in a roasting tin. Roast for 20 minutes until soft and caramelised.
2. Finely chop the coriander stalks and mix with the garlic, ginger and chilli.
3. Heat a pan over a medium heat. Add the remaining oil and fry the garlic mixture for 2 minutes until fragrant. Add the onion and celery, turn down the heat and cook gently for 10 minutes. Season well with salt and pepper. Add the stock and the coconut cream . Bring to the boil then turn down to a simmer. Cook gently for 10 minutes.
4. Puree the butternut and add the cooked onion, celery, stock and coconut mix, puree until completely smooth.
5. Add the lime juice and taste the soup. It should be a balance between hot, sweet, salt and sour. Serve garnished with chopped coriander and a pinch of chilli powder.
SOUP KITCHEN NOTES:
‘Exploring Taste and Flavour’ – Tom Kime, this is a wonderful book of Asian, fusion and mediterranean flavors. Published in 2005 it still feels incredibly relevant today and has the most stunning array of mouth-watering recipes.
‘Soup – Glorious Soup’ – Annie Bell, is my bargain book off Amazon. As the title suggests this only deals with one thing – I highly recommend the ‘Hot and Sour’ soup, the ‘Fennel and Crab’ and the ‘Pear and Stilton’. Today, a ‘used’ copy is being sold at £1.20, which is practically cheaper than a newspaper and certainly cheaper than a Starbucks!