There is not a lot I love about winter. Cold seems to somehow freeze me into a state of listless inactivity - the endless grey days drag drearily and most days I just want to hibernate beneath warm, cozy blankets with endless mugs of hot chocolate and a good box set. Winter isn't all bad though: I love chunky knitted jumpers, sunny, crisp mornings and, of course, Christmas.
In the winter I become a bit obsessed with soup - it's comforting and warm, healthy and filling, easy to make and delicious to eat. Butternut squash soup is a favourite with my family. I added the apples and lentils on a whim and loved the flavour: the lentils add earthiness and the apples give a sour-sweet tang. This recipe uses a whole butternut squash so it makes quite a lot of soup, but any left-overs can be frozen for later.
Apple, Lentil and Butternut Squash Soup
Makes about 12 portions
3 tbsp olive oil
1 large butternut squash (about 1kg prepared flesh)
2 medium cooking apples (about 330g)
150g red split lentils
3.5 pints light vegetable stock
salt and pepper
Start by preparing the butternut squash. Peel off the skin and remove the seeds from the top of the squash. (You can save the seeds and roast them to make a tasty garnish). Chop the flesh into rough 2cm cubes and set aside.
Peel the onion and slice it thinly. Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pan over a medium heat and add the onions. Cook gently for about 10 minutes until soft and golden brown.
Meanwhile prepare the cooking apples: peel, core and quarter them and set them aside.
Add the butternut squash, lentils and apple to the pan and cover with the stock. Simmer for 30 - 40 minutes, until the squash is really soft and the lentils are well cooked.
Leave the soup to cool for 10 minutes and then blend until smooth.
Season to taste and garnish with cream, parsley and roasted butternut squash seeds.
Roasted Butternut Squash Seeds
Seeds from 1 large butternut squash
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
Preheat the oven to 130°C.
Combine the salt, oil and seeds in a small bowl, then spread onto a foil-lined baking tray.
Roast for 15 - 20 minutes, until the seeds start to pop. Remove from the oven and cool before serving.