It’s winter and, as we all know, winter never ends. Luckily, a practical modern man’s ardour continues to make its warming presence felt in the fireside months. If such a man also had a lady who could use a little thawing après-ski, he could do worse than to begin by comforting her with a homemade soup matched perfectly to the season. At this time of year, the grocers’ aisles are overrun with squashes, pumpkins, gourds and indeed all manner of Cucurbitaceae. Pick one up and you’ll be taking the shortcut to a glimpse of long underwear. My suggestion: butternut squash. Just because it’s easy to work with. If you prefer a Turkish turban or acorn, please feel free, and continue to follow these ridiculously easy steps below.
Into a pot, pour something like three cups of water — no need to be precise — and bring to a boil. Throw in a cube of vegetable stock; if you make your own stock, stop reading now, as this recipe is for corner-cutters only! While the stock is approaching readiness, remove the rind of your butternut (with a potato peeler, I suggest), disembowel the seeds and cut the flesh into manageable cubes. Next, grab whatever other root vegetables you’ve got hanging about the pantry, and do similarly. There is no way to err here: a sweet potato, carrot, turnip, parsnip, onion, rutabaga — any or all can go in. If it’s root, it’s right. Why not grate some ginger while you’re at it? Great. Now toss all these into the water and reduce to a simmer. Add a couple of cloves of garlic and a stick of cinnamon. If you like a little extra oomph, add hot sauce, Thai chilli paste, or your preferred heater. If it be some sweetness ye seek, add a pear or apple or handful of prunes. I have, on occasion, even tossed in a bit of broccoli or kale or Swiss chard, just so I could say some greens were in the mix. Bang, that’s it — you’re done for the hard work! Let the soup simmer on low for an hour or two as you go about the business of your day.
When you’ve decided the soup has spent enough time gathering strength, remove the cinnamon stick and reach for your blender to whip this into a purée. Once the squash &c. is as smooth as your good self, stand back to admire your work: because you now have a modern man’s pot of soup, good for several days’ lunches/dinners. If you are indeed serving to your loved one, make one last tiny effort by garnishing it once in the bowl for taking to the table. A sprig of something green, if you have such things in your ’fridgerator, or cranberries or nuts and so on. You know who loves squash soup? Everyone. Saying “have some of this squash soup I made” puts any modern man into the ranks of the loved and, often, admired.
Image courtesy of Marcus Tamm.