2 garlic bulbs, dry skin removed
5 tablespoons olive oil/rapeseed oil
3 fresh thyme sprigs
1 large butternut squash, quartered and seeded
2 onions, chopped
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1.2l/2 pints vegetable or chicken stock
3 tablespoons fresh oregano or marjoram (omit if you cant find. I used dry but better omitted.)
4 large ripe tomatoes, halved and seeded
1 red pepper, halved and seeded
1 large fresh red chilli pepper, halved and seeded
3 tablespoons olive oil/Rapeseed oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
Preheat the oven to 190C
Place the garlic bulbs on a piece of foil and pour over half the olive oil. Add the thyme sprigs then fold the foil around the garlic bulbs to enclose them completely. Place the foil parcel on a large baking tray with the squash coated with the remainder of the oil.
Place the the tomatoes, red pepper and chilli for the salsa also onto the baking tray.
Roast the vegetables for 25 minutes. Remove the tomatoes, peppers and chilli and place in a plastic bag. Tie off the top .
Reduce the temperature to 180C and cook the squash and garlic for 20 more minutes or until tender. Remove from oven and allow to cool (finished with oven).
Heat the remaining oil in a large heavy pan and cook the onions and ground coriander for about 10 minutes or until tender.
Squeeze the garlic out of its skin. Combine the flesh with the onions.
Scoop the squash out of its skin, adding it to the pan.
Add the stock, 1 teaspoon salt and plenty of black pepper.
Bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes.
Stir in half of the oregano (if using). Cool the soup slightly, then process in a blender.
To make the salsa
Skin the pepper and chilli. Blend the flesh with the tomatoes and 2 tablespoons olive oil.
Stir in the vinegar and season to taste.
Reheat the soup without allowing it to boil. Taste before ladling into warm bowls and adding a generous spoonful of salsa in the middle of the bowl..
OK so the title is a bit of a mouthful, and I usually object to dish titles which are essentially the recipe, but this soup is also a (great) mouthful so it is worth the adjectival overload to try and persuade you to try it. If it was just "butternut squash soup" then I would probably pass it by like you - I regard most squashes as texturally challenging and insipidly sweet which means you don't really know what to do with them (sweet pumpkin pie being a classic example of how wrong this dilemma can go). Like most bland things though, they can if treated correctly provide a stage for some interesting flavours to be carried through - providing the bulk for a soup for example.
Even in a soup they need treated correctly, and that means reducing the amount of water and so concentrating the flavour. Roasting is the key to this, so it's a roast butternut squash as the base. Then to add some depth of flavour to that, we also roast some garlic. I am a great fan of roast garlic - well actually garlic in any form..But roast (if you have not done it before) is a revelation. All those harsh notes disappear and it becomes sweet and deeply savoury at the same time, creamy and wonderful. So a good complement to our roast Butternut squash - and as we have the oven on, we may as well....
So thats all kind of sweet and creamy and wonderful, but it needs something to give it a bit of bite - spicy and/or sour. And the salsa in this recipe does just that.
Now you may think it is overly pretentious to have a salsa or a pesto to spoon on top of a soup when you serve it (why not just put all the ingredients in the bloody soup....) and while that might be true, sometimes it is essential because without it the soup would just be bland and with it, it is great. That is definitely the case here. If you cant make the salsa, don't make the soup cos you will be disappointed. Any you cant just stir it in to the body of the soup, because finding bits of the salsa in some mouthfuls and not in others is what gives the contrast to your mouth and hugely improves the eating of this (and many other) soups. This particular salsa has a mellow spiciness from the roast chilli, sweetness from roast pepper and tomatoes and a sour note from balsamic vinegar and it is this sweet/sour/spice which really elevates the flavour of the soup.
You might want to make this for a dinner party. I made it one cold sunday morning cos I happened to ave a lot of the ingredients and they needed using (but I had no bread so I made Soda Bread) - it has a reasonable amount of work to make it, but no real skill! Give it a go as soup is always a good and nutritious way to fill and warm yourself during these winter months... Incidentally I did not try this on the children, so the rating is mine. They may actually like the soup without the salsa because of the natural sweetness.