Is it just me or is it starting to feel like winter is never going to end? It’s too cold. What I will say though is that whilst I’m getting bored of winter food already in some ways, it is the time of year when a steaming bowl of something will hit the spot like nothing else. Especially on a work day in a draughty old building when you’re having one of those days that makes you wish you were back in bed.
I don’t know about you, but if a soup is good enough and hot enough, one spoonful will immediately revive me to the point of begging winter’s forgiveness for ever speaking badly of it. I’m not talking about those crazy Pinterest soups though; there’ll be no cheese or nachos in my soup pot. What a good soup can give you is a vibrant, hot bowl of bright goodness. It tastes like nourishment. And it can be so packed with flavour. With a little bit of time and a lot of love and patience, you can turn a small bag of groceries into somethings spectacular which can keep you in healthy, warming lunches all week.
You will need:
2 cloves garlic
3 peppers, choose your poison (I bought a 3 pack of yellow, orange and red, but 3 red would do you just fine)
1 3cm piece ginger
2 butternut squash (3 if they’re small)
1 sharp green apple (a bramley is perfect)
3 chicken stock cubes (or vegetable if you’re vegetarian)
Salt and pepper
1 tsp parsley
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp mild chilli powder
Dash Worcestershire sauce
1. Preheat the oven to 200c and line 2 trays with foil. Peel and quarter the onions and core the peppers before cutting them in half. Place in one of the trays, along with the garlic, and drizzle with a little olive oil.
2. Cut the squashes (squash, squashi?!) in half down the middle from top to bottom. Be careful; these can be tricky nuggets! I find it easiest to cut off the knobbly bit on the top first, stand them upright on a board and slice top to bottom with a chef’s knife. It’s hard to get the knife through to start with but once you get to the bulbous section it’ll be plain sailing. Scoop out the seeds and place them in the other tray, flesh facing up. Season and drizzle with oil then shove them in the oven too. Both trays will take around half an hour, but have a look at them after 20 minutes.
3. In the mean time, chop up the leek and add it to your soup pot with a little oil. Try to keep the heat relatively middling so they don’t brown, but hot enough to sauteé them. Grate in the ginger.
4. Remove the onions and peppers from the oven when the peppers are beautifully tender with dark brown skins. If the onions are still a little hard don’t worry too much, but you can put them back in the oven on their own if you’d prefer.
When cool enough to touch, chop the onions into smallish pieces (but don’t worry about them being too fine) and add these to the pot as you go. You should be able to squeeze the garlic out of its skin and into the pot. Cook the onions down a little more whilst you carry on to the next stages.
Before chopping up the peppers, carefully remove their skins. If they’re cooked enough, this should be easy. Simply pint the skin at its darkest and it should tear and peel away really easily. Then chop up the pepper flesh and add it to the pot.
6. When your squash looks sticky and tender, remove from the oven and chop into chunks. Leave the skin on as it will have turned marshmallow in the oven and will be liquidised later. Peel, core and chop the apple and add than too. Trust me on the apple. It sounds a bit “out there” but it really balances out the flavour, adding a little earth and a bit of sharpness. I made this soup last week without the apple and it just wasn’t the same.
Give everything a good stir to get nice and hot.
7. Prepare your stock by dissolving it in hot water if you’re using cubes or just pour it in if you have liquid stock instead. Add a little seasoning and stick the lid on. Allow to simmer on a low to medium (just bubbling) heat for around 40 minutes.
8. Liquidise in a blender or on a big bowl using a stick blender. You can do it in your stock pot if you want but mine is non-stick and I don’t want to risk scratching it so I always use a big metal mixing bowl to blend then pour it back into the stock pot to finish.
9. Add the herbs, spices and Worcestershire sauce, allow to cook through and then taste. This is the tricky part where you need to work out whether it needs more salt, more spice or nothing at all. You have to trust your tastebuds here I’m afraid!
And that’s your soup! Enjoy!