Butternutty Soup

So here we are on the 3rd January 2016. It’s a grey, wet and frankly miserable day. The festivities are over, the tree is taken down, decorations tidied away and it’s back to work or school for many of us tomorrow. Cheering up food is required. Something tasty, bright and warming. Soup should fit that bill, and I have had a butternut squash kicking about the kitchen for the past two weeks that needs using up.

I’m taking part in an Ikea challenge – to Live LAGOM – which is all about simplifying your life, reducing waste and being more sustainable in all your activities. One of things I’ve put down as a personal challenge is to manage my store cupboards better. I’m convinced I was a starving peasant in a former life as I regularly overstock my pantry, secure in the knowledge that I can, if required, feed an army at short notice. However, as that army doesn’t rock up with the frequency I think it should, I end up with full cupboards and an occasional *cough* duplication of items because I can’t actually find anything in them…

With that laudable intent in mind, I spent a merry morning turning out two pantry shelves, listing everything I had, relabelling jars & chucking out things from 2008. Oops. I’ve got lots of odds and sods – some desiccated coconut, not enough for a cake; various small quantities of lentils; lots of bits of pasta; and a fine selection of nuts including unsalted cashews, pine nuts and hazelnuts. I do hate waste so I’m determined to make some meals using up these scraps.

Back to the butternut squash and the warming soup that’s so sorely needed. I don’t think I’m being particularly original in this combination of butternut squash, cashews and coconut but by gum it makes a yummy soup! Please forgive the slightly random measurements, this soup was rather chucked together, so you may need to adjust quantities to suit your own taste. I’ve also realised that I’ve created a vegan recipe, by accident not design, but one that fits nicely into January’s Veganuary theme for a few folk.

Butternutty soup

1 medium butternut squash

1 tbsp olive oil

3 cloves of garlic

1 tsp dried thyme

1 medium onion

1 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp dried chilli flakes

2 dsp desiccated coconut

a handful of unsalted cashews (or peanuts)

1 litre veg stock

Cut up butternut squash into 2 inch or so chunks – skin and all, but remove the seeds & fibre from the centre. Toss in a baking tray with 1 tbsp of oil, thyme and three slightly crushed but not peeled garlic cloves. Place in a medium hot oven – GM5/160 fan/ 180C and roast for 25 to 30 minutes until the squash is tender. Leave til cool enough to handle, then remove skin from butternut squash pieces and squeeze out the roasted garlic.

Meantime, roughly chop the onion. Add 1 tbsp of oil to a heavy based pan, heat gently and then add the onion. Keep the heat low and cook onions til soft and translucent. Add the chilli flakes and stir well. Add the butternut squash, garlic, coconut and cashews. Pour the hot veg stock into the vegetable baking tray to rinse out any lingering flavours and decant into the soup pan. Give everything a good stir and bring to a gentle simmer for about 15 minutes. Take off the heat, let it cool slightly before blending into a rich creamy soup. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed – salt/ pepper/ pinch of cayenne if it needs more heat etc. Serve garnished with more cashews.

Soup in preparation

Vegetables cooking before stock added

Picture of butternutty soup

Butternutty Soup

Hungover or just Hungary??

It’s the day after my birthday and I’m feeling a tad, ahem, delicate. Maybe that fourth Ginny Hendrix cocktail at Camp and Furnace’s food slam wasn’t such a good idea. So. What to make to soothe my pounding head and settle my somewhat disturbed internal organs? I’m going straight to my comfort zone – my Hungarian family’s recipes. A great big steaming pot of Gulyás is needed.

This isn’t the goulash some folk will be familiar with – a Western version of this Hungarian classic turns it into a thick beef stew with all sorts of unnecessary additions. No, this is what I consider the proper version – a hearty soup with chunks of potato, meltingly tender beef and a spicy paprika kick designed to feed, soothe and invigorate. It’s hugely economical as well. I used 250g of lovely organic shin beef from Forster Organics (based in St Helens – www.forsterorganicmeats.com), which cost me all of £1.81.

The Antal Gulyás recipe (see end of post for a veggie version)

250g shin beef

1 large onion

1 red pepper

2 large baking potatoes

1 litre of beef or lamb stock

1 tsp caraway seeds

2 tbsp paprika

1 dsp of lard

Halve, then slice onion thinly til you have a tangle of half moon slices.  Do the same with the pepper. Heat the lard in a deep, oven-proof casserole dish and add the caraway seeds.Once they start to pop and release their scent, add the onions and cook for 5 minutes over a low heat.

onions  stockpotato

Cube the beef and add to the pot. Stir well to brown the meat and then add 2 tablespoons of paprika. Keep the heat low – be careful not to burn the paprika and add the red pepper.  Season with salt and white pepper. Stir well and add the stock. Bring to a simmer, then cover and put into the oven to cook on a low heat – 160C/ 140c fan/ GM 2/ 325F for an hour.

Peel the baking potatoes and slice into thin chunks. Add to the soup and stir well. Leave to cook for another hour until the potatoes are tender. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed. Serve, steaming hot with a hunk of bread to dip. If you are feeling the need, add a heaped tablespoon of sour cream to each serving. Eat and feel much, much better.

 gulyas2

Ps, haven’t forgotten the non meat eaters – you can make a fab vegetarian/vegan version substituting veg stock for the beef stock, olive oil for the lard and 500g of field mushrooms (the big chunky ones) for the beef. Use 1 tsp of dried dill instead of the caraway seeds and follow the recipe above.