Just in time for you to buy the ingredients before Halloween, here’s a seasonal soup. (When I mentioned to Dr W that I was making a Halloween soup, his response was: “Ooh. Will it have blood and pus?” Sorry, love. It’s only got squash and peppers.)
The pumpkins you buy for carving don’t have the sweet, chestnutty character of many of the smaller squashes, so they’re better kept for carving and putting on the windowledge. A pumpkin-type soup is better made with something like a butternut squash instead, which has a great flavour and texture, and can be a bit easier to handle than some of the rounder squashes. In this recipe, the vegetables that make up the soup are all roasted. The squash will caramelise nuttily, the peppers become sweet and silky…and surely, there can’t be anything nicer than a roast onion? I’ve topped the lot off with some gorgeously savoury, crispy garlic and parmesan croutons. Halloween heaven.
To serve 4, you’ll need:
1 large butternut squash
5 large red peppers
5 small onions
1 litre stock (I used some home-made chicken stock)
1 tablespoon paprika
½ teaspoon ground coriander
Juice of 1 lime
Olive oil to drizzle
Salt and pepper
Fresh coriander to garnish
½ loaf white bread (unsliced)
4 grated cloves garlic
1 handful grated parmesan
4 tablespoons olive oil
Preheat the oven to 180°C (340°F). Peel the butternut squash and cut it into chunks about an inch square. Arrange them on a baking tray and drizzle generously with olive oil. Peel and quarter the onions, and put them on another baking tray, cut side up. Dot with the butter and drizzle with a little more olive oil, then sprinkle with salt.
Put the squash and onions in the oven, and roast for 40 minutes, basting once. When the 40 minutes are up, put the peppers (on another baking tray, and rubbed gently with olive oil) in the oven, baste the squash and onions once more, and continue to roast everything for a further 20 minutes. The butternut squash should be soft and turning a sticky, caramel-brown at the edges, the onions should be browning nicely, and the peppers should be wrinkly. Set the squash and onions aside, and put the peppers in a plastic freezer bag. Seal and leave until the peppers have cooled. The steam coming off the peppers will loosen the skin and make them easy to peel – once cooled, you can slip the skins off.
Saute the paprika and coriander in a tablespoon of olive oil in a large saucepan for one minute, then add the squash, onions and peeled peppers to the pan. Saute gently, stirring, for five minutes, then pour over the stock, and bring to a simmer for five minutes. Puree the soup in a food processor (you’ll need to do this in batches) and push the resulting puree through a seive, back into the large pan. Add the lime juice, which will push the flavour of the peppers to the fore, taste for seasoning and leave the soup to one side while you make the croutons.
To make the croutons, preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F). Cut the crusts off the half loaf and discard. Chop the white part of the loaf into cubes about 2cm on each side (a large-ish crouton is nice here, the outside turning crisp and the inside retaining a bit of squashiness). Arrange the croutons on a baking sheet. Grate the garlic into the olive oil, mix well and drizzle over the croutons. Toss them well in the oil so every side is covered with the garlicky mixture, then sprinkle over the parmesan and toss again. Bake in the hot oven for ten minutes until golden, but start checking after eight minutes – these are quite easy to burn.
Warm the soup through, sprinkle with croutons and garnish with a bit of fresh coriander.