Wednesday, November 04, 2009

An Autumn Warmer

Earlier this year I decided that it'd be a good idea to grow some butternut squashes in the patch of weeds and paving stones that we laughingly refer to as "the garden" here at Millbrooker Towers.

I had absolutely no idea what I was doing, I simply took a load of seeds that we'd saved from a butternut squash bought some time before at our own dear Widdicombe Fayre in West Street. I sowed them in moderately neat rows and thought no more of it.

In truth I only expected a few seeds to actually germinate. In fact pretty much every seed germinated. Mrs The Millbrooker counted something like a hundred and sixty three plants each vying for space in our long, but very narrow, garden.

Butternut squash plants grow bloomin' huge and trail all over the place. As a consequence I have since checked the gardening manuals and I find that you're supposed to plant maybe half a dozen seeds at most in order to satisfy the average family of four for an entire winter season; you're supposed to plant them a month earlier than I did; and you're supposed to make sure they're well spaced. Ho hum.

Because of the sins against gardening orthodoxy that I committed, the harvest has been slightly more moderate than might be expected from a hundred and sixty three plants. The total harvest (including the three fruits still attached to the last dying tendrils in the garden as we hope desperately for some more sunshine to help them ripen) is ten edible fruits. As I think I said a few sentences ago: ho hum.

This is one of them:
Our lovely neighbour, Gay, nabbed another in exchange for a recipe that she'd found in her newspaper (and also in exchange for a seemingly endless stream of high quality produce from her garden). Shazzerooneypoos has had another (also partly in exchange for a huge quantity of yummy home grown stuff from her well-tended patch).

The example above has long since disappeared into the Millbrooker Towers Residents' digestive systems, but two more are sitting upon the kitchen table awaiting consumption once they've ripened up a bit.

Anyway - what I actually wanted to do was give Gay's recipe for a very very yummy autumn soup, which - you've guessed it - features as a main ingredient, butternut squash. Anyone who's looked at the way I cook or the way I write recipes will realise that this isn't great art - measurements are pretty well immaterial; just enjoy.

You'll need a couple of onions (chopped/diced);
two big or four little cloves of garlic (chopped up small);
tow or three small red chillies (de-seeded and chopped up small;
a butternut squash (about a kilo in weight);
a goodly dollop of Greek style yoghurt;
olive oil and butter;
vegetable stock cube (or chicken...)
Start by chopping up the squash into cubes, keep the skin on - it'll soften during cooking and adds hugely to the flavour.
Brush a roasting tin with olive oil, plonk the cubes of squash onto it and brush them with olive oil as well. Stick the tray in the oven at gas 6 (ish) and roast for at least 45 minutes; the squash's skin should have browned slightly and should be easy to cut through with a knife.
Plop a couple of tablespoons' worth of olive oil into a large saucepan and drop as big a knob of butter as your arteries will allow into it.
Heat the pan until the butter has melted.
Chuck in the onion, garlic and chillies and stir them around a bit. Then cover the pan and put on the lowest heat that your hob will allow and leave it to its own devices for about half an hour - the onion should be very soft by the time you're ready for stage two.
If you've been really clever the squash and the onion/garlic/chilli mix will be ready at about the same time.
Make up a pint and a half (ish) of stock using the cheat's method of boiling a kettle and stirring a stock cube into boiling water.
Then stick everything into the one pan, give it a stir around and whizz it with a hand held whizzy thing until it looks like soup.
Heat it up to whatever temperature you like your soups and just before serving dollop some Greek yoghurt into it.
Mmmmm. Mmmmm. Mmmmm.

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