Butternut Redux

6 Feb

There’s a café in Edinburgh which is one of my favorite hangouts. The furniture is mismatched, the coffee smooth, and the menu full of modern British delights. But it has one small problem: they don’t make good soup.

The last time I was there, I ordered a bowl of squash and blue cheese soup, which I thought would be perfect for melting the Scottish cold from my joints. But with the first bite, I felt like a principal looking across her desk at two elementary school kids who got in a fight – the squash timid and whimpering, and the cheese monosyllabic and sullen. I wanted to yell at one to grow some backbone and the other to play nicely for once. Frustrating, to say the least.

So when yesterday I had a wedge of Gorgonzola on the edge of expiring in my fridge, I saw my opportunity to right past culinary wrongs. I roasted a small butternut squash until it softened and caramelized, bringing to the fore all the sweetness and nuttiness that the café’s soup had woefully failed to produce. And rather than adding the Gorgonzola directly to the soup, I blitzed it with a little butter and a big handful of toasted walnuts. We smeared the results over toasts for dunking.

When the cheesy, nutty butter met the sweet soup, it transformed from a playground brawl to a graceful waltz.

By the way, the soup is delicious (and much healthier) on its own. But the compound butter certainly takes it to another level, so try it on nights when you’re feeling reckless.

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup with Gorgonzola-Walnut Toast


Serves 3, with butter left over

Soup:

750g/1.5lbs whole butternut squash
4-5 sprigs thyme, leaves stripped from stems
sea salt
freshly-ground pepper
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 litre/1 quart vegetable stock
2 tablespoons real maple syrup (optional)

Preheat the oven to 200C/400F.

Cut the top and bottom off of the squash, then slice it in half lengthways. Scrape out the seeds like it’s a miniature version of a Halloween pumpkin. Then peel each half. After all that palaver, cut the remaining flesh into 2cm/1-inch cubes. Toss the squash in a roasting pan with the thyme leaves, salt, pepper, and two tablespoons of the oil. Roast in the oven for an hour.

20 minutes before the squash is done, warm the remaining oil in a medium saucepan over a medium flame. When hot, add the onion and turn the heat down to medium-low. Sauté the onion slowly until it’s very soft and just starting to go brown, around 15 minutes. Then add the garlic slices and sauté for another 2-3 minutes.

Add in the roasted squash and the stock, and bring everything up to a simmer. Then remove from the heat and blitz with an immersion blender until completely smooth. Taste for seasoning; if your squash isn’t sweet enough for your palate, stir in some maple syrup. Serve with toast, optionally spread with gorgonzola-walnut butter.

Butter:

100g gorgonzola, cut into 5cm/2-inch chunks
25g butter, room temperature, cut into large chunks
40g walnuts, toasted
freshly-ground black pepper

If not using a food processor, finely chop the walnuts. Then put all ingredients in either a mixing bowl or the bowl of a food processor. Pulse in the machine until well-combined and a little fluffy, or mash with two forks until mixed.

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3 Responses to “Butternut Redux”

  1. Lucy February 6, 2012 at 9:40 PM #

    Oh, that sounds amazing! I have been really into making butternut squash soups these past few winters. Curious – is maple syrup readily available in the U.K.? I tend to think of it as a primarily North American thing, but maybe I’m just making that up.

    • Tom February 8, 2012 at 9:35 PM #

      It is but it’s expensive. We get ours couriered over especially.

      You can find people who try tapping sycamore trees since they’re related. It never sounds like it tastes nice though.

  2. Lynne Hodgman February 7, 2012 at 2:24 AM #

    Yet another drool fest. It is brilliant of you to make the spread rather than putting the gorgonzola into the soup directly or even sprinkling it on top. I think it would overpower the soup; yet having it as an ingredient on toast and dunking does the sweet/sharp combination that the *diner* can control. And follow with another spoonful of soup if desired!

    I’m making beef stew in the next day or two and may just make some blue cheese nut butter to slather on the French bread I was going to serve with it. Also, may use a bit of tangerine juice in the stew, as the salad will have “Cutie” tangerine wedges in it. Dressing made with lime juice and mustard and maple syrup. Sweet/sharp/sweet/sharp with a little crunchy thrown in…

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