This is essentially a Sophie Grigson recipe from her Organic book (though my version here is more a case of throwing the basic ingredients together – remembered from memory – rather following her recipe carefully). It’s been a favourite for years. My daughter Nicola discovered it in the book and once she’d cooked it for me, there was no turning back from this rising to the ‘favourite soups’ category in the family. Significantly, Sophie suggests using ‘winter squash’. ‘Significantly’ because, yes, it is May. But the weather gods don’t seem to know that; it’s cold, wet and dismally grey. So what better way to warm and brighten up the day than a bowl of this delicious, earthy and wonderfully sunny-looking soup for lunch.
I’ve always made the soup with butternut squash before but there was no sign of one in Waitrose this morning, so I came home with a gloriously bright and cheerful onion squash. I thought it might be hard to peel – peeling any large squash or marrow is fairly challenging – but it turned out to be quite easy with the aid of my nice big and sharp chef’s knife.
There’s nothing refined in the way I cook this. You could of course peel the tomatoes (I did cut out the woody stalk ends); you could even strain it all at the end for a smoother effect. But I’m more a rustic kind of soup person and the aim was only to provide something hot and delicious for a quick and simple lunch.
My onion squash weighed just over 1kg. Carefully hold it and slice downwards with a sharp knife to skin; turning it up the other way to do the other side. Remove the seeds. (They looked so good I felt I should look up ‘how to dry your own pumpkin seeds’ but then decided life was too short … or at least, it was today.) Cut into large chunks and put in an ovenproof dish with the following: 3 largish tomatoes, quartered (I know, there are 4 in the photo, but by the time I’d chopped them and added them, I decided 3 was enough), 2 small red onions, quartered; and 2 cloves garlic, peeled. Pour over a good amount of olive oil to well coat the vegetables and toss gently by hand. Then season well with some salt and freshly ground black pepper. Lay a large stalk of fresh rosemary and a few sprigs of fresh thyme on top. At this point I had a sudden urge to scatter in some dried red chilli flakes too.
Put into a 180 Fan/200 C oven for about 40 minutes, turning the vegetables gently halfway through so the edges don’t get burned. Once the squash is tender when you pierce with a fork, take out. Pick out the woody rosemary and thyme stalks.
Transfer the vegetables to a large saucepan and then pour in enough hot stock or water to almost cover. Whisk up with a hand blender, check seasoning – and viola! A gorgeous and warming lunch. I had mine with some olive fougasse I’d bought in Paul this morning and a nice bit of French cheese I’d got out of the fridge earlier. It took me under an hour from start to serving bowl to make this – and most of the time I just left it doing its stuff in the oven. I also have a few portions to freeze for another day.