Zest and Herbs

Squash soup

I recently read in the papers about the horrific food waste associated with Halloween pumpkins.  This neither shocked nor surprised me: the pumpkins you buy in supermarkets for carving aren’t really worth eating at all as they’ve been selectively cultivated to be easy to fashion into eerie faces and any flavour has been driven out as a result.  Well over an hour of roasting is required to drive off the water content and extract a little flavour out of them (as I’ve tried).  If there’s issue to be had to with pumpkins, perhaps it’s that we waste land growing them in the first place for the sake of one autumn night, rather than the fact we throw them out afterwards (and since you could say the same about cut flowers or Christmas trees, I don’t think it’s much of an issue at all).  Better than salvaging your jack-o-lantern from the kitchen bin is to just eat the other varieties of squash that are on offer instead.

As a student, I’d always regret buying squashes because, though cheap, they were inevitably family-size monsters that resulted in butternut with every meal for about a week.  While that was only a couple of years ago, greater variety of shapes, sizes and colours seem to have emerged on the shelves.  Beyond their appearance, there’s not too much to separate them (thickness of the skin and firmness of the flesh being the main differences) and thanks to being a few pence cheaper than the butternuts on offer, this Harlequin squash ended up on the menu.

Harlequin squash

Squash soup recipes are everywhere on the internet in the autumn, but there’s definitely good reason for it.  I’ve kept it very simple, just allowing the flavour of the squash to shine through, but also to leave plenty of room for customisation as well!

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp cooking oil
  • 1 medium white onion, finely chopped
  • 1 carrot, peeled or scrubbed and finely siced
  • 2 sticks celery, finely chopped
  • 1 0.8-1kg squash, peeled and cut into 2-3cm chunks
  • 1l vegetable stock or water
  • Salt and pepper
  • Bread to serve

In a large saucepan, warm the cooking oil and sweat the onion, carrot and celery until softened but not coloured, about 10 minutes. Add the squash and stock and bring to the boil. Simmer until the squash is tender.

Once the squash is cooked, remove from the heat. Leave to cool slightly before blitzing to a smooth soup with a stick blender (if using an upright, lidded blender or food processor let the soup cool more before puréeing to limit the steam build-up under the sealed lid). Adjust the thickness of the soup by adding more stock (or cream to make it richer), and taste and season with salt. Before serving, bring back up to a simmer so it is piping hot. Serves 4.

Squash soup, garnished with chilli flakes

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