Butternuts for roasting

This week I’ve got the last of this season’s butternut squash. After this any of the stuff you see around is most likely to be from another hemisphere. I love  butternut but not enough to have it make a journey from Argentina. If you haven’t cooked it before, butternut squash makes all kinds of wonderful soups, gratins and stews. It’s also great served on its own (roasted, boiled, steamed or fried) then dressed with a little sea salt, olive oil and the tiniest dash of balsamic vinegar.

Flavourwise, its earthy and quite sweet (which makes it a great weaning food for babies) and goes very well with garlic, leeks, onions, potatoes, chiles, maple syrup, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, parsley, sage and orange. Most recipes call for just the flesh and getting the skin off does look daunting but it’s not really. I find the best way is to quarter it first and then peel. After that, take out the seeds and stringy bits and cut the flesh as required. And what a lot of people don’t know is if you roast your butternut the skin ends up soft enough to eat which makes things even easier.

One of the simplest ways to cook butternut comes from a friend who reckons she got the recipe in New Zealand.You basically cut your butternut in half and stick in the oven so it really couldn’t be less labour intensive…..

Sweet roasted Butternut

You’ll need:

Butternuts (of course!!!!)

Butter

Brown sugar

Sea salt

Cinnamon or chili

Clean the skin and cut the butternut in half, then roast it softside up for 20 minutes. Turn it over and smear the flesh with butter, brown sugar, a generous pinch of sea salt and either a pinch of cinnamon or chili.

Butternuts with sugar and cinnamon

Return to the oven and roast for a further 30 to 40 minutes depending on the size of your squash or until the flash has caramelised.

This is fantastic served with lamb, pork or some baked feta cheese with a cous cous salad dressed with olive oil, toasted pine nuts and plenty of chopped rocket or flatleaf parsley.

Roasted butternut

With the weather so horrible it had to be soup today and I made one of my favourites –  butternut, with Parmesan and thyme. It’s quite a simple recipe but it gives knockout results. I’ve served it on Christmas day it’s that good. The sharp salty tang of the cheese combines with the thyme to give an almost meaty flavour that’s incredibly moreish. There’s a little cream in there too which means it’s nicely filling aswell.

Butternut Soup with Parmesan and Thyme (for 2 as a lunch or 3 as a starter)

You’ll need:

500gr peeled butternut

60ml olive oil

1 small onion chopped

4 cloves garlic finely chopped

1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves or 1 teaspoon dried

750ml vegetable stock (as usual I cheat and use Marigold)

2 tablespoons double cream

3 tablespoons grated Parmesan and some Parmesan shavings for garnish (make these with your veg peeler)

Sour cream for garnishing at the end – not absolutely crucial and some regular cream or yogurt will also do fine

Heat the olive oil in a pot over a lowish heat then very gently sweat the butternut for about 5 minutes then add the onion, garlic and thyme. Continue cooking gently for another 10 minutes. Turn up the heat a little and add the vegetable stock in 3 stages stirring well between each addition. Bring everything to the boil then reduce to a gentle simmer, season with salt and pepper then cover and continue cooking for a further 25 minutes.

Butternut soup

To finish the soup off add 2 tablespoons of double cream and the grated Parmesan. Check and correct the seasoning if necessary then cook for a further 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly before blending until smooth adding a little more stock if necessary to get the consistency you want. Before serving reheat and garnish with a drizzle of sour cream if you have it and some Parmesan shavings. Don’t forget that soup freezes really well so it’s worth making a double or triple quantity you can use spuds and/or carrots to make up any shortfall on the butternut front.

It’s time for soup. I’ve been in denial for a while but several chilly cycles through the drizzle then this morning’s trudge with pram through the pouring rain have convinced me. This week it’s with butternut, very seasonal and very appropriate given the pumpkin  frenzy that is Halloween weekend. I roasted it with leeks and a little thyme then brought it to the boil in veg stock with some softened garlic. Easypeasy. It’s absolutely great like that – perfect for warming your bones on a miserable day like today. But as usual my greed prevailed,  so I tossed a little chopped chorizo on the pan and threw it on top with a little dollop of creme fraiche- even nicer!

Roasted butternut and leek soup topped with crispy chorizo and creme fraiche – this makes 4 decent sized bowls

You’ll need:

800gr peeled butternut cut into large chunks

2-3 leeks

A couple of sprigs of fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon of the dry kind

4 cloves garlic

Olive oil

1 litre stock – I used Marigold but you could use chicken

A large thumb size piece of chorizo

A little creme fraiche – greek yogurt or sour cream will do just as well

Prepare the leeks for roasting by trimming the green parts,  then washing what’s left and slice it into rounds about 2 cm thick. Toss in a roasting tin with the butternut and thyme in a little olive oil. Stick in the oven and roast in a medium oven Gas mark 5 or 6 /180 degrees for about 40 minutes. Toss everything about half way through to ensure an even roasting. Then heat a little olive oil in your soup pot and saute the garlic until nice and soft and add the roasted veg. Add a generous pinch of salt and keep cooking for a  minute or two while you heat the stock. When done add to the veg mix then bring everything to the boil. Turn down the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and blend until nice and smooth. Add plenty of black pepper, stir well then taste to check the seasoning. If you’re happy the soup is made.

To finish, finely slice the chorizo into rounds then cut these rounds in half. Heat a drop of olive oil on a small pan then add the chorizo. Fry until just about crispy then take off the heat immediately. The oil stays hot for a while and continues to cook the chorizo so be quick. Put the soup into bowls then top each one with some chorizo and a little dollop of creme fraiche.

As well as tasting great, this  week’s bunch of thyme has lots of medicinal properties that help when you’re feeling coldy as everyone seems to be at the moment. We use it to make tea with lots of lemon and honey and it always seems to hit the spot.

Thyme tea with lemon and honey

Bring 4-5 sprigs of thyme to the boil in about 350 ml water (about enough for a large cup and then a little more for a top up) then simmer for about 10 minutes. Strain into a cup then add the juice of half a lemon and a large teaspoon honey. Feel better already!!