Squash & Chestnut Soup

It may be spring, but there are still a couple of squash from winter kicking around the cold storage and for a grey and rainy day this soup brings comfort, warmth and brightness. With minimal effort. And isn’t that the key! It scales up beautifully if you’re serving a crowd so give it a go. Serve it with some toasted whole-grain sourdough and some veggie-pâté for a light but satisfying spread.

Yield : 2 servings, 3-1/2 cups

What you need :

  • 1/4 cup dry chestnuts (or between 1/3 to 1/2 cup of package of roasted and shelled moist ones)
  • 2 cups peeled and diced butternut squash (or any other sweet winter squash such as Hubbard, Red Kuri or kabocha – just adjust water/stock according to how dry the squash is)
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and diced
  • 1 tsp (or more…) butter-flavoured coconut oil
  • a wedge of fresh lemon
  • 3 cups vegetable or mushroom stock
  • a sprig of rosemary
  • 3 drops lemon zest oil (optional)
  • herb salt
  • lemon zest and freshly ground black pepper to serve (optional)

What you do :

  1. If using dry chestnuts, soak them for 6-8 hours in the vegetable or mushroom stock.
  2. To make the soup, heat a saucepan or soup pot over medium heat. When hot add the coconut oil and onion. Toss the onion to coat it in the oil and turn the heat down to medium-low. Once the onion has begun to soften, add the squash and toss to coat in the onion and oil.
  3. Sauté the vegetables over medium-low until they’re bright, soft and there are starting to be beautiful caramel bits on the bottom of the pot – 15 to 20 minutes at least. Turn the heat down as required if things are moving to fast. Could you do this step more quickly? Sure. But the longer you take cajoling flavour out of those beautiful roots and fruits, the better your soup will taste. So take your time. Make some tea. Put on some music. Knit. Watch the rain. And let the stovetop do the cooking.
  4. When the vegetables are good and ready, squeeze the wedge of lemon juice over the pot and start scraping up the golden bits from the bottom. Add a splash of the vegetable or mushroom stock and keep at it. When the bottom is cleaned of the yummy, then add the rest of the stock, soaked chestnuts, rosemary sprig and lemon zest oil if using. Salt to desired level.
  5. Bring to a simmer, cover and lower the heat. Simmer the soup for 20-30 minutes.
  6. Remove the rosemary sprig. Carefully transfer to a high-speed blender and purée for a super-smooth soup (as illustrated). For a smooth soup, use an immersion blender to purée. Add a bit of extra broth or water if required and adjust flavours as desired. (You might want a bit of lemon more lemon juice of a bit of zing, perhaps some red pepper flakes instead of the black pepper I reached for : get creative !
  7. Serve with optional lemon zest and freshly cracked pepper to garnish. Leftovers will store well 3 to 4 days in the fridge and although the soup will thicken a bit once cool, the taste will be just as incredibly good.

Variations :

  • Have fun with garnishes to switch up the soup. Ideas include rosemary or lemon-infused olive oil; some sliced roasted chestnuts; perhaps a few fried mushrooms.
  • No chestnuts ? No worries ! Use toasted hazelnuts, walnut or pecan for different but equally wonderful soups.
  • Try using a few tablespoons of sherry or Marsala wine to deglaze instead of the lemon.
  • Swap the rosemary for bay or thyme if preferred.

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