Growing up in South Africa, butternut was (and still is) a regular part of meals. The beautiful orange squash can be used in soups, stews, salads, sides and even baked whole (or stuffed) in an oven or over coals. I was surprised to find that this versatile vegetable wasn’t as common in Europe as I expected (I’ve been asked a couple of times how to cook it – both times lined up in the queue to buy one!). I might be biased, but I think butternut has a far superior taste and texture to other varieties of squash, which can be watery and stringy. The cooked flesh of butternut is wonderfully dense and smooth – it is brilliant just roasted or steamed with a little butter, salt and pepper. It has a slightly sweeter flavour than most squash – almost bordering on sweet potato. It marries very well with most herbs (especially mint, sage, rosemary and thyme) and spices (coriander, cumin, cinnamon, chilli) and can also be used for sweet baking.
Put away the peeler
For the vast majority of butternut recipes, keep the skin on. Yes, on. Don’t be tempted to peel butternut, it’s not necessary for most recipes. The skin cooks to a soft texture that is easy to eat and digest (if fully cooked). Why waste all that wonderful fibre? This soup recipe is no exception – you’ll be amazed that the skin blends into a wonderfully smooth and velvety soup. It’s a great way to ramp up the fibre in a meal without any hassle or impact on flavour and texture.
The good stuff
Down to business. Not only is butternut tasty, it is full of wonderful nutrients! It is particularly high in vitamins A and C, folate, potassium and has a good omega 3:6 ratio (i.e. is higher in omega 3 than omega 6). Leaving the skin on also means this soup is a good way to boost your daily fibre intake. If you’ve never cooked with this lovely squash, take a look at my post on choosing and preparing butternut.
Autumn Spiced Butternut Soup
- 2 tablespoons coconut oil or organic butter
- 1 red onion, chopped
- 2 celery sticks, diced
- 1 teaspoon each of turmeric, ground cumin, ground coriander
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 teaspoons finely minced fresh ginger (about 1 big knob)
- 1 medium butternut – in chunks
- 1 tablespoon bouillon (I like Marigold)
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- Water (or stock, omit bouillon)
- Ground pepper and salt to taste
- 1 dessert spoon pumpkin seeds (or pine nuts) per serving
- Squeeze of fresh lemon
- Drizzle of olive oil
- Sprinkling of feta or goat’s cheese (optional)
- Heat the coconut oil over a medium heat in a saucepan and sauté the celery and onion until the onion is translucent
- Add the turmeric, ground cumin, ground coriander, ginger and bay leaf and sauté until you can smell the aromas being released – be careful not to burn the spices
- Add the butternut chunks, stir and allow to sweat with the onion and spices for 2-3 minutes
- Add the bouillon and enough water (or stock) to just cover the vegetables, a good grind of black pepper and bring to a simmer
- While the soup is cooking, gently toast the pumpkin seeds (or pine nuts) in frying pan, tossing every 30 seconds until you can smell them become ‘nutty’. Watch these like a hawk, burnt seeds are bitter!
- The butternut is ready when it is soft and easily gives way under the pressure of a fork. At this point, stir in the crushed garlic and remove the pot from the heat
- Remove the bay leaf and blend the soup until smooth with a stick blender, or in batches in a liquidiser (allow to cool a little if using a liquidiser)
- Return to the heat, adjust seasoning to taste and add more water or stock to reach the consistency you like
Ladle into bowls and sprinkle with torn coriander leaves, toasted pumpkin seeds and a little drizzle of olive oil and lemon juice. You can also add a crumble of feta for a slightly saltier result. Note: Watery butternut soup is nobody’s friend. I recommend that you start off with just enough water to cover the vegetables and then add more liquid (if desired) once you have blended the soup. This soup can be frozen for a month or so (without garnishes). Cool and freeze in appropriate containers.