Friday, 24 April 2015

Butternut Squash, Ginger & Orange Soup

Life has certainly become very busy of late, but I’m not complaining because I am having a great time, eating in some fab restaurants and going to different food festivals and events. The downside of all of this is that I have a bit of a backlog in terms of the posts that I have to write up for the blog… but I tend to take a philosophical stance regarding such things and I’m confident that I’ll get them finished in the next couple of weeks or so. I say all of this by way of explanation for the surge of posts I hope to publish in the near future and as a way of putting a little pressure on myself.
 
Despite how hectic life has become, I have still found time to do quite a bit of cooking and baking, which is great because that is at the core of what I want this blog to be about.
 
Many of the dishes that I have been cooking recently are quick to prepare and cook, but they are still full of flavour and delicious to eat. Don’t get me wrong, despite being an enthusiastic cook and a lover of eating out in good restaurants, I am not a snob when it comes to food and would eat takeaways every now and again. There is one particular chain of diners here in Ireland which serves burgers that I find it impossible to resist and I have also been known to use various so-called ‘convenience’ foods from time-to-time. Ultimately, however, I enjoy cooking and prefer to cook my own meals from scratch. I recognise that not everyone feels the same as I do and find having to cook and prepare meals a bit of an ordeal, but I love it. There are so many recipes that are quick and easy to prepare and result in dishes that are far superior to those that you can buy pre-prepared in the chiller section from the supermarket.
 
In my opinion, the most important quality that you need to possess when cooking is confidence in what you are doing. For some people, cooking is an instinctive thing, but for others who are reluctant or nervous cooks, confidence can be improved by using recipes that are reliable and actually work. I sometimes suspect that there are recipes which are published in some of the best-selling cookbooks and food magazines have never been cooked other than for the glossy photographs to accompany the publication. This drives me mad. Every recipe that appears on my blog has been cooked (often many times) and photographed by me. Although some of them use specialist equipment or are aimed at the more experienced home cook, I try to include many that could be attempted by even the novice! This soup is a perfect example of this as it is incredibly quick and simple to make, using ingredients that can be easily sourced.
 
I love the zingy freshness of this soup, with some gentle warmth provided by the addition of ginger and a little fresh chilli. If you prefer something a little spicier, you can increase the amount of chilli used, but do this cautiously as you still want the sweetness of the butternut squash and orange to come through.
 
You can finish the soup off by serving it with a swirl of cream or crème fraiche and a few leaves of coriander or parsley. Serve with some freshly baked brown soda bread, still warm from the oven! HEAVENLY!
 

Ingredients:

25g butter1 small onion, roughly chopped
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
5cm piece of ginger, peeled and chopped
1 red chilli pepper, sliced
1 butternut squash, peeled, deseeded and cut into chunks (600-750g)
Finely grated zest and juice of 1 orange
750ml vegetable/chicken stock
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
To serve:
Cream or crème fraîche
Small leaves of parsley or coriander
 

Method:

1. Melt the butter in a large saucepan and add the onions and garlic. Cook over a low to moderate heat for about 5-7 minutes until they soften but do not allow to colour.
2. Add the ginger, chilli and butternut squash to the saucepan and give everything a good stir. Cover the saucepan and sweat the vegetables to cook for about 5 minutes until just beginning to soften but again, do not allow to colour.
3. Add the orange zest and pour in the stock. Increase the temperature and bring the mixture up to simmering point. Season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Allow to gently simmer for about 15-20 minutes uncovered, or until the vegetables are soft.
4. Purée the soup using either a stand or hand-held blender and pour into a clean saucepan. Add the orange juice, stirring it through the soup. Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary.
To serve:
5. Serve hot in bowls with a swirl of cream or crème fraîche and a few small leaves of coriander or parsley.
 
Serves 6.