Soup is an understandably popular meal here in Ireland. There's nothing like a steaming bowl served with a buttered hunk of bread to warm you through during the colder months.
But I haven't always felt that way, you see, I've only recently embraced that soup can be a full meal.
Coming from a warmer country I didn't eat soup regularly, even in winter. And if I did, it was normally a side or starter to something else. And, as a meat loving family, a vegetarian soup was definitely not going to be a good enough substitute for a so called "full meal"!
Then about a year before leaving South Africa I started buying soup from Woolies (M&S to us up here). M&S being M&S, their soups were the classics with an updated and interesting twist. It was also around that time that I started to get adventurous with food, and though the combination of squash and citrus seems quite normal to me now, back then, I thought it was a strange pairing. I guess it would seem that way if what you normally ate came out of a sachet in powder form! (I still have a fondness for spicy tomato cup-a-soup...)
I actually remember that when I moved to Ireland I specifically went to see if they had the same soup in the Marks and Spencer here. They didn't. I was bummed.
It's taken me more than five years and the spurring on of an Avonmore blogger's competition for me to finally re-create it! What can I say, I've been busy. And I want to win the competition.
Seriously though, I had every intention of re-creating it when I first moved here, I've even got the bookmarked recipes to prove it. But sometimes I have the attention span of a goldfish, I come across another recipe and my focus is gone and on to the next thing. A soup recipe will often be trumped by a baking recipe, so I end up with cyber cobwebs all over my to-cook recipes on my browser's shelf.
That's why I quite enjoy taking part in online recipe competitions, it's often because of them that I finally get around to making a certain dish!
So, all set to use Avonmore's new cooking cream, I just had to decide on the recipe. Re-creating this soup was actually the first thing that came to mind.
This soup is the perfect dish for winter. It's basically sunshine in a bowl! How twee, I know, but it's true.
The combination of butternut with orange is just so damned delicious! And when I say orange, I don't mean so much orange that you wonder if you're actually drinking a smoothie, I mean just enough juice and zest to brighten the flavours with acidic sweetness.
Depending on how you prepare butternut, it can be quite dull and bland. Yes, it has its own sweetness, especially when roasted, but the earthy flavour can be flat, especially if it's the main ingredient of a dish. The orange in this soup just livens everything up.
When I make a butternut dish, 95% of the time I'll pair it with cinnamon, I just love the two of them together, so that was definitely going in to this soup, but just a hint! I love me some cinnamon, but in this dish it just needs to hang back and play a part in the chorus.
The next spice I knew I'd be adding was cayenne pepper. I vaguely remember seeing it in the ingredients list of the soup I used to buy, again, just a hint. This soup is meant to leave you warm from the inside, not so hot you need to cool down with an ice cold drink, that would completely defeat the purpose!
As for the ginger, it was actually listed in one of the bookmarked recipes I'd found and I thought it sounded like a good idea, and it was. Ground ginger gives its own kind of heat, something more warming than spicy, and of course it's one of cinnamon's bff's. Bsff's?
Lastly, to round out and smooth over all of the flavours and make this soup a little more luxurious, cream.
I really enjoy a creamy soup, especially when you have an acidic ingredient like tomato, and in this case, orange. It just takes that sharp edge off. But I was a little worried that because the Avonmore cooking cream has half the fat content of regular cream that it would leave my soup a little insipid, but that wasn't the case at all. It turned out just right!
So, now that I'm a soup loving girl, I'm already looking forward to making this again. Probably tomorrow, with the weather we're having, I need some sunshine in a bowl!
Cream of Butternut & Orange Soup
Serves 4 - 6
800g - 1kg Butternut Squash (+- 1 pound)
1 med Onion, diced
2 cloves Garlic, finely chopped
1l Chicken or Vegetable Stock (4 cups)
1 cup Avonmore Cooking Cream
1/2 Orange Zest & Juice
1/4 tsp Ground Cinnamon
1/4 tsp Ground Ginger
+- 1/4 tsp Cayenne Pepper, to taste
Salt & Pepper, to taste
- Pre heat oven to 220°C (200°C Fan Assisted)
- Cut the butternut lengthways to halve it
- Scoop out the seeds and discard
- Brush the cut side of the butternut with olive oil and sprinkle with a bit of salt
- Arrange the butternut cut side down on a baking tray
- Tip: I line the tray with tinfoil so make for easier clean up!
- Roast butternut for 30 - 40 mins, until a sharp knife or a fork can pass through the flesh
- Leave to cool on a wire rack, about 10mins
- Once cool enough to handle, use a spoon to scoop the roasted flesh out of the skin
- Discard the skin
- Tip: If you gave your butternut a wash beforehand, you can actually just roughly chop the butternut, skin and all, and use all of it in the soup, the skin should be soft enough and will blend easily
- In a large pot over medium heat, melt 2 Tbsp of butter in a dash of olive oil
- Add the chopped onions and sauté until onions are soft and translucent, stirring frequently, about 10mins
- Add the chopped garlic and sauté for another minute
- Raise the temperature to high and add the stock, spices, orange juice, zest and roasted butternut and bring to a boil
- Once it's reached a boil, lower the heat to medium low and simmer for 30mins
- Blend the soup in a food processor or using a stick blender until soup is smooth
- Tip: If your food processor doesn't have a large enough capacity, then blend the soup in 2 or 3 batches; pour the blended soup into a bowl and set aside until all of the soup is blended, then return all of it to the pot
- Still over a medium low heat, add the cream to the blended soup and simmer for a further 10 - 15 mins, until it's at your preferred thickness
- Taste your soup and season with salt and pepper to taste
- Tip: I always add the salt last because it depends on how salty your stock is. If salty enough, you might not need to add any salt at all
- Serve with a drizzle of cream and freshly cracked black pepper, and of course, a lovely hunk of buttered bread