Sunday, November 24, 2013

Warm Your Cockles With Soup

Butternut Squash Soup with honey and Sage

I don’t buy cookbooks too often these days, they take up room and I subscribe to cooking magazines! But I was at a museum bookstore open house recently and instantly fell in love with Long Nights and Log Fires, a book packed with winter time recipes. Aah, I couldn’t resist!

So I made a butternut squash soup (it was billed as pumpkin soup but butternut is more accessible) and tweaked it a bit. If you can really blend it well into a puree you really don’t need the cream. But go ahead and add it if you wish. This is delicious and will warm your cockles.

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 small-medium onion, roughly chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, chopped
dash red pepper flakes (optional)
2 ¼ lbs butternut squash, seeded, peeled and cut into cubes
2 heaping tablespoons clear honey
3 sprigs sage, plus extra crisp-fried leaves (optional) to serve
3 cups chicken broth
1/3 cup heavy cream (optional)
freshly squeezed lemon juice, to taste
sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Gently melt the butter in a large lidded saucepan. Add the onion, carrot and garlic. Stir, cover and cook, over low heat for about 4-5 minutes. Add the squash, honey, and sage, stir, replace the lid and continue to cook very gently for about 10 minutes. Pour in the stock, bring to a boil and cook for a further 10 minutes until the vegetables are soft. Turn off the heat and allow the soup to cool slightly, then remove the sage and strain the soup, retaining the liquid. Put half the cooked vegetables in a food processor with just enough of the reserved cooking liquid to blend into a smooth puree. (If, like me, you have an excellent blender, just blend veg and liquid into a puree. No straining needed.)

Transfer to a clean saucepan and repeat with the remaining vegetables, adding the puree to the first batch. Bring the soup slowly to a boil, then stir in the cream if using, off heat. Season to taste with lemon juice, salt and pepper.

If desired, fry some sage leaves in a neutral oil like grapeseed until crisp. Use to garnish bowls of soup. Serve with crusty bread.

I added a little heat to the recipe because that’s the way I like it.

I have some upcoming projects I am wanting to try: chiles en nogada – stuffed poblano chiles with walnut sauce. I had it last year in a Mexican restaurant in Santa Fe, NM and just can’t forget about it. So I randomly decided I had to read Like Water for Chocolate, found it in a used book store, and googled “are the recipes in Like Water for Chocolate any good?” and found a great looking recipe in Melissa Guerra’s Latin Kitchen Market blog. I’m going to try it soon. (I saw the movie of Like Water… years ago and finally decided I had to read it. Just so you know, I really disliked Mama Elena.)

For the first time ever, I have a more than decent crop of Meyer lemons. I have been giving lemons away, but I am really wanting to make Crema di Limoncello. Limoncello is a lemon liqueur from Italy. It’s nice but a little harsh tasting for me. Last summer our neighbors served us crema di limoncello (with milk in it) and it was amazing. I found a great looking recipe and I’m going to get some good Vodka (Tito’s – it’s reasonably priced and has been distilled 6 times) and go for it. Wish me luck!