Friday, 23 January 2015

Don't judge a soup by its colour...

Last Saturday we were at a wedding where the starter for the post ceremony lunch was soup. I can be quite suspicious of soup produced in big kitchens, having too often been presented with something that's just too pretty and too smooth to be convincingly 'home made' despite the exhortations on the menu. It might be mussied up with swirls of sour cream, croutons, basil leaves, crispy pancetta, but the soup itself can be disappointingly bland, and sport a frankly dubious texture that smacks of unnatural additions (whatever they might be).

You see, I am a child of soup - frugal soups, chunky soups, left over soups where the original pot stays on the stove and is added to over the course of a few days, so that what might have started out as carrot (mostly) soup will, 3 days later, have effortlessly morphed into something approximating "leek-broccoli-and-chicken-but-don't-tell-your-father-about-the-broccoli"... Soup is part of my psyche, but as a result of my soup education (the whole process of making stock, the addition of any veg that's to hand), soup is not always pretty. In fact, a pretty soup is something to be eyed with a certain caution as unlikely to be of any nutritional value whatsoever. Pah.

I've moved some way from this position myself, and can see the benefit of producing soup that sings of wheat fields ripening in the sun, or luscious tomatoes warm from the vine rather than appearing to have been dredged up from the bottom of a canal somewhere, especially if you're trying to encourage kids to embrace soup, but I guess what I'm saying is that I am OK with ugly soup - and I hope you are too, because you'll need to be to enjoy this one (nothing like building something up is there?!)

So back to the wedding, and the menu announcing "Butternut squash, chickpea and spinach soup". I had my doubts, but it was truly delicious - sustaining, nutty from the chickpeas, flavoursome. There had been no attempt to 'pretty it up' yet it came, green-flecked bowlfuls of turmeric golden warmth. Just the thing after a couple of hours in a freezing churchyard and a tot of sherry... 

Pink is in a hating phase at the moment, and although she tried it, rejected it, but Blue wolfed down his bowlful and declared it delicious. So much so that when I ventured to ask what kind of soup I should make for tea a few days ago, he suggested that I recreate it. I misjudged the quantities of spinach required to provide the green flecking and ended up with something approaching pond sludge in colour, but it's really good - and got the Blue seal of approval too.

This makes a huge vat of ugly but delicious and nutritious soup - enough to keep the world and his dog fed for at least a week, I'd say, so you might want to think in advance about freezing some!

Otherwise, enjoy - whilst doing something to distract you from the colour if necessary...

Butternut squash, chickpea and spinach soup

2 onions, peeled and roughly chopped
750g peeled, chopped butternut squash
2 * 400g tins of chickpeas, drained
1 tsp each of cumin & turmeric
1/4 tsp cinammon
2 litres of hot chicken (or veg) stock - I made mine with 3 Knorr stock pots which I love in the absence of proper stock
450g spinach leaves, washed

Put the onions in a large pan, cover with water, bring to the boil and simmer for 15 minutes or so. Keep and eye on it and if it dries out before the onion is softened, add a splash more water.

Add the squash and the spices, cook over a gentle heat for a minute or so, then tip in the stock, bring to the boil and simmer for 15-20 mins until the squash is tender.

Chuck in the spinach and stir for a couple of minutes (there's a lot of spinach so you need to incorporate it into the liquid to get it all to wilt!)

Once the spinach is wilted, add a grind of black pepper and a pinch of salt if needed, then blitz and serve.


  1. That's a fine combination of flavours. That would definitely suit me rather nicely. I don't think it's a bad colour at all - I've definitely seen worse. What about the sad, grey mushroom soups that look like a rainy day in Slough? (Sorry anyone that lives in Slough).

  2. Hello stranger! Well, this looks right up my street. I love the soup pot on the stove all week too, this is also right up my street!

    1. :-) hello! Good to hear from you - hope all well? I was a little worried by your virgin Mary! have you had a drink yet? Well done on the fundraising.


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