Yesterday I spent an unreasonable amount of time trying to artfully compose squash (Sweet Coquina Butternut, Spaghetti and Red Kabocha) in a wooden box of scrunchy leaves. Positioning them just so to enable early morning beams of glorious sunshine to pick out the fabulous colours of these delicious autumn fruit. Alternately lying prone in the dewy grass (as always, I had my apron on with its water-repelling properties and so remained dry) or balancing precariously on the rim of a large pot trying to achieve a clever, insouciant, never-before-seen angle that would shed fresh perspective on these somewhat over-photographed autumn staples.
Why was I doing this? Instagram of course! Kudos to the pros because it isn't as easy as it look to be so effortless.
No matter how hard I tried, something wasn’t working. Too much sun, too many leaves, wrong wooden box? The simple fact was, my choice of squash left my photos looking a bit too Orlando Bloom on a paddle board (if you catch my drift). I rushed to the shops to purchase yet more squash to fill out the picture a bit more and just managed to grab a decent shot before a heavy autumn shower gusted over and greyed out the day.
By then I was left with a not inconsiderable amount of these dense, subtly sweet fruit to use up. What to do? Halloween approaches – should I attempt to skilfully carve a miniature Jack ‘0 Lantern? I decided life was too short (at least mine was); besides, I’ve read that pineapples are the new pumpkins as far as creepy carving goes.
I added one to the fruit bowl to brighten it up and reserved a small one for dinner later in the week (Squash Risotto with Sage and Pine Nuts or maybe Steak with Roasted Squash Wedges and a Lime Chilli Dressing).
Frankly, by this time I’d had enough of squash and was hungry. I took a visceral pleasure in peeling, slicing and dicing the remaining three, thereby combining both a convenient arm workout and using knife work as a de-stressing technique.
I made a comforting lunch for myself and sick (malingering/over-tired?) older child lurking upstairs in bed. Squash Soup – one of my all time autumn favourites. Here is my recipe for when you just need something warm, comforting and unchallenging.
1 large knob butter
I red onion finely chopped
1 stalk celery finely chopped
1 carrot finely chopped
Diced squash – you can use one or mix several varieties together. At the very least one large butternut. The larger your dice, the longer it takes to cook.
1l good quality stock
Lots of salt and pepper
2 teaspoons of cumin
1 teaspoon of chilli flakes (you can up the heat levels to your liking)
Melt your butter in a pan and slowly soften your onion, carrot and celery – you want them to be lightly browned, but don’t let them catch or your soup will be bitter.
Drizzle your diced squash with olive oil and sprinkle with cumin and chilli flakes, roast at 180 degrees for 35-40 minutes until softened and just starting to caramelize. The cumin and chilli help stop the soup from being too sweet.
Add the roasted squash to the softened vegetables and cover with stock. Cover and cook over a low heat until the squash is tender.
Transfer into a blender and blitz until completely smooth (this is not a soup for lumps).
Season to taste.
Why not add a spicy hit with a sprinkle of chorizo and roughly torn croutons? Remove the skin from some cooking chorizo and shred, slowly heat the chorizo in a frying pan over a very low heat until its natural oils come out, add the bread and toast it in the chorizo oil.
Or add a teaspoon of crème fraiche to each bowl as you serve. If you’re feeling fancy, blitz some fresh sage and extra virgin olive oil together to make a sage oil to drizzle lightly on top.
Or just get down and dirty with a chunk of bubbling cheese on toast.