Sometimes I like my soups like this, rich, thick and velvety.
This recipe was conceived and written during a bout of sleeplessness. Unlike me, Mr. Pear is consistently excellent at sleeping – barely 2 minutes and zonk. It’s comical. While he sleeps I try to exhaust myself in the quietest way possible, but the inside of my head itches so. A few nights ago for example, he slept through my making a tisane in the kitchen immediately next door (we’ve a whistling kettle), and listened to music while typing next to him in bed. He doesn’t mind, and you’re going to get a good soup out of this.
This isn’t Keller-esque fine cooking. This is lazy comfort food. I built it around two flavours and textures I wanted–good winter squash (from the vegbox) and garlic, both rich and creamy–and then rooted around in my cupboard and fridge for other things I could throw in. I encourage you to do the same: I’ve made this soup twice, each time with similar proportions, always brown butter, but varying root vegetables, herbs and spices. It’s been excellent each time, so I see no reason to chain you firmly to a recipe. This is more of a friendly suggestion.
For mostly hands-off cooking, I roasted the squash in quarters with everything else in rough chunks. Everything is unpeeled. This way you only briefly deal have to deal with cutting up hard squash. That does potentially mean one extra piece of washing up, yes, but the trade-off’s worth it to me. Obviously if you’ve an appropriate stove-to-oven vessel, you’re laughing.
I like to add a slip of brown butter to each bowl just before serving, largely because I love the stuff and also because it rounds out the flavours. It’s not an essential component, just a well-liked one.
You can easily scale this soup up, just the thing to make and keep for a few days of easy, satisfying meals, especially when it’s so miserable, like it is right now in my corner of the world.
Here’s to brighter days.
ROAST GARLIC & WINTER SQUASH SOUP + BROWN BUTTER
Makes 900 ml fairly thick soup; 3 generous servings as a main course. You could get at least a further serving if you thinned it down even further, be sure to balance the seasoning if so. Keeps for at least 3 days, chilled.
Use whatever root vegetables you like to supplement the main ingredients, as long as you enjoy the flavour and texture. I also know this is a tedious list of spices, so vary or omit spices and other flavourings as you wish.
600g – 700g hard winter squash (approximate de-seeded weight)
1 large head of garlic (mine was 75g unpeeled weight) or 2 smaller ones, left whole and only the papery skins peeled
Any combination of the following: 1 carrot, 1 parsnip (recommended), 1 stick celery, 1 onion or shallot. No need to peel.
A good knob of butter in little bits
1 tablespoon olive oil
use around 2 tsp of whatever ground spices you like; this is what I used:
3/4 tsp ground cumin
3/4 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground turmeric
You can also add a few sprigs of whichever woody herb you like, I love fresh thyme.
250ml – 350ml good vegetable or chicken stock
A splash or two of milk or cream (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste
25g unsalted butter, diced
A sprinkle of something green, like sliced spring onions or frond of fresh herb
Preheat oven to 190 degrees Celsius/170 fan.
Quarter the squash and scoop out seeds (reserve for roasting, if desired). Cut garlic in half along the equator, not worrying if some cloves wander away. Cut all the other vegetables into rough 1 cm / half inch chunks or wedges.
Put all the vegetables on a large rimmed baking tray. Sprinkle over the oil and spices/herbs, toss, coating cut surfaces thoroughly. Scatter over the butter pieces. Make sure all the garlic is cut-side down. Roast for 30 minutes or until you can get a fork into the squash with only a little resistance; it needn’t be as meltingly yielding if you were to eat it immediately, but it should be getting there. All the other vegetables should cooked and browned at the edges, and the garlic should be very soft. It doesn’t matter if a few cloves are dry.
Scoop the flesh from the squash and squeeze the garlic cloves from the skin, discarding any dry burnt cloves. Working in batches if necessary, blend the roast vegetables and stock until completely smooth.
Heat through and check the seasoning, diluting further with milk, cream, or more stock until the soup is to your taste. Keep warm.
To finish, make the brown butter. This only takes a few minutes. Get out a small heatproof bowl and have it ready by the stove. Let the butter melt and foam in a small pan over a medium heat, swirling gently; once a particularly thick and stubborn foam appears and the mixture smells nutty, scrape the browned butter into the little bowl.
You can either stir the brown butter into the soup right away (it may foam a little), or allow the butter to cool slightly before drizzling it on top of each portion (keep leftover brown butter to use however you like). Pour soup into warm bowls, add any garnishes and drizzles you wish, and dive in with a spoon in one hand and some crusty bread in the other.