The  leaves are falling while the nights are getting cozy as the seasonal soups role in. A technical repost of my pilot recipe for Planetcookery still holds the magic that it did all those months ago. This recipe involves making your own vegetable stock, something that I feel is an absolute necessity for a beautiful soup.  The addition of  tangy Crème fraîche to contrast the sweet squash just gives it that satisfying nature. This is a great one for dinner parties as the prepared plates can be sent out and the soup poured at the dinner table for the added touch of performance.

Preparation time: 10 minutes   Total Cooking time: 1 1/2 Hours  Serves: 3-4 
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Ingredients

For the Vegetable Stock

  • 2 Medium sized carrots, washed and roughly chopped
  • 1/2 Leek, washed and roughly chopped
  • 1/2 White onion, roughly chopped
  • 3 Medium sticks of celery, washed and roughly chopped
  • Couple of sprigs of thyme
  • 1 litre cold water
  • 1 Tbsp. Olive oil

For the Soup

  • 1 Large butternut squash, cut into approx. 1.5 cm cubes
  • 6 walnuts, crossed slit cut into skin
  • Approx. 25 g Salted butter (To taste)
  • 2 cracks of black pepper
  • Kosher salt to taste
  • 1 Tsp. Crème fraîche per person

Tips and Tricks:  When choosing your butternut squash, pick one that is relatively heavy for its size (Any over 1kg will do for this recipe). Hard skin is also a good sign of developed flavour so scratch it with your nail to see how resistant it actually is. If your lucky enough to live in an area with chestnut trees (More than likely will if in the UK) then gather your chestnuts from those fallen to the ground with the protective layer still intact, giving you better quality for zero cost :).

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Method
  1. To make your vegetable stock, in a large pan over a medium heat fry your onion, celery, carrot and leek without colour for approx. 5 minutes.
  2. Add the cold water along with the thyme, bring to a boil and simmer over a low heat with the lid on for 1 hr.
  3. Strain the stock through a fine sieve and keep warm for later use.
  4.  Pre heat your oven to 200 °C, place you chestnuts on a baking tray and place in the oven to roast for 30 minutes.
  5. When the chestnuts are 20 minutes  from being complete, place the diced butternut squash evenly onto  a large baking tray and roast for the remaining 20 minutes or until tender (Moving around half way through to prevent burning).
  6. Turn off your oven, remove the walnuts and allow to cool slightly.
  7. Peel and chop 3/4 of the walnuts roughly into small pieces and the rest into slices, reserve for later.
  8. Remove the butternut squash from the oven and place into the blender, reserving approx. 7 pieces of butternut squash per portion to be used later.
  9. Bring the vegetable stock to the boil and place 1/2 of it into the blender with the butternut squash, blend adding the vegetable stock gradually until the consistency desired is reached (I like mine between watery and thick due to the addition of Crème fraîche later).
  10. Place in the butter and pepper and blend until well incorporated, taste and add more butter if preferred.
  11. Add the kosher salt, blend and adjust to taste.
  12. Pass the soup through a fine colander or sieve into a pan, bring back up to temperature and adjust the seasoning if necessary.
  13. To serve place the reserved butternut squash pieces at the bottom of the bowl along with some coarsely chopped walnut.
  14. Make a quenelle of Crème fraîche using a tsp and carefully place ontop of the butternut squash pieces.
  15. Garnish the quenelle with the walnut slices and tiny sprigs of thyme.
  16. Pour the soup around the Crème fraîche leaving the top 1/4 exposed, serve.

Tips and Tricks:  The absolute key to soups is taste, taste taste! Getting your seasoning right really does bring out the natural flavour of the squash so be patient and do it gradually to get it just spot on. The other important element in my opinion is the consistency, you want it to be creamy but still be able to roll of your tongue (not leaving residue in your mouth), so again be patient when adding the stock but don’t fear of adding to much, you can always evaporate some of the liquid in a pan after passing through a sieve. Most importantly just enjoy the process, add love and it will come out perfect every time. To add a touch of performance to the dish take out the prepared plates (at step 15), then pour the soup at the table.

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