Autumn soup seemed to be the most apt name for this soup; full of autumnal goodness in the shape of root veggies, warming and earthy and even autumn coloured! Living in the Middle East, we don’t have autumn. We don’t even really have seasons, just a time of the year when it’s not quite so hot and sticky as the rest of the year. Back in the UK it’s crept into autumn without me even noticing. I saw some photos from my friends at the weekend of the countryside and the colours turning on the trees and it made me miss home. So despite the fact that it was 35°C and 80% humidity outside, I decided to make soup for dinner. Yes that’s right, soup on a boiling hot day. I had the day as a rest day, so after a much-needed catch-up on some sleep, a long Skype session with mum back in the UK and sister Em in Oz, I did some baking (recipe and photos to follow in another post!). Then I thought I should probably have something healthy for dinner as a result of the aforementioned baking episode. I also needed to make something that could easily be reheated later as Niall had been away working all weekend and wasn’t due back until later on that night.
I still struggle here with the very British mentality that if it’s sunny outside, I feel guilty for being indoors and not being outside making the most of it. Difficult to get out of that mindset when you’ve lived in the UK all your life, but surprisingly I managed to make it to the afternoon quite happily without even unlocking the front door. It’s amazing how being in an air conditioned room and looking out at the blue sky and sunshine can lull you into a false sense of security about how delightful the weather is outside. It was not delightful. It was hot, muggy and very, very humid. So I went back into the air conditioning, and decided that I could at least pretend it was autumn here too.
Serves 2 very hungry people as a main, or 4 for a soup starter.
- Half a raw pumpkin/squash ~500g
- 1 large sweet potato (the kind with the orange flesh)
- 1 medium sized onion
- 1 whole bulb of garlic
- 500ml stock
- ½ tbsp. olive oil
- Ground cumin
- Ground cinnamon
Start by removing the seeds and stringy inside bits of the pumpkin or squash, cut into large chunks (1-2 inches wide etc.), drizzle with olive oil and place skin-side down on baking paper on a roasting tray in a hot oven (200°C) to roast. After the squash has been roasting for about 15 minutes, take an entire bulb of garlic, remove any loose papery skin from it and wrap it in 2 layers of tin foil. Place directly onto the oven shelf next to the squash baking tray. Roast for ~15 minutes.
The squash will take around 30 minutes or so, depending on how big the chunks of squash are. I like to turn the pieces over after about 15-20 minutes so that the flesh gets some nice tasty caramelized bits on too. The timings here are not too precise – just keep an eye on the squash – when the flesh is nice and soft, take it out and try not to let it burn! Set the squash and garlic aside to cool.
Whilst the squash and garlic are roasting in the oven, peel and chop a large sweet potato and put in a pan. Add enough of the stock (I used an Oxo stock cube as it was all I had, but homemade chicken stock would be much, much nicer) so that the chunks of sweet potato are just covered, bring to the boil, then simmer until the sweet potato is cooked through and soft (~10 mins). Chop the onion and sauté in a frying pan with a little bit of olive or coconut oil, until the onion softens and becomes translucent. A little bit of caramelized edges on the onion is fine!
Remove the cooked squash flesh from the skins (a bit of skin left on is OK, just try and remove the majority of it), open the garlic cloves carefully and scoop out the softened garlic flesh. Combine the squash, garlic, sweet potato and onion in a blender or food processor (you might have to do this in 2 batches – my blender was full to the brim) and blitz to mix everything well. Add the remainder of the stock to loosen the mix a little bit (it may be quite a solid soup at this point!). If the soup is still too thick for your liking, thin it down a little with more stock, or a little coconut milk.
Transfer the mixture into a pan to reheat, and add cumin, cinnamon and pepper to taste. I added somewhere between ½ and 1 teaspoon of cumin and cinnamon – it’s far easier to add more to taste… don’t add too much to start off with! And Voila, there you have a delightfully warming, earthy autumnal soup, suitable for vegetarians & vegans (using veggie stock), paleo & whole30 compliant eaters (with homemade chicken stock), and just plain yummy for everyone.