After several weeks of season denial the day is finally upon us. After a week of wandering around the house wearing two jumpers and a blanket as a cape I have finally given in and put the heating on. Although a fan of winter salads the status of soup as the ultimate sustenance in the colder months cannot be disputed. If a meal were a warm hug, that meal would be soup. This spicy butternut squash, chilli and lime soup is one of my new favourites.
You only need to look at the colour of this soup to know it is good for you. The vibrant orange of the squash and sweet potato peppered with the bright red of the fresh chilli and the rich green of the coriander – this is a bowl brimming with beta carotene and vitamin C among many other goodies. But healthy and satisfying does not need to be boring. The natural sweetness of the potatoes and cinnamon partnered with the bitterness of the lime give a sweet and sour flavour and the combination of star anise and chilli, a partnership common in Chinese and Vietnamese cookery, creates a riot of flavours to perk you up at lunchtime.
- 1 ½ tbsp olive oil
- 1 large white onion, finely chopped
- 1 butternut squash
- 2 medium sweet potatoes
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2 star anise
- ½ tsp pink peppercorns, crushed
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tsp Kashmiri chilli powder
- 1 litre vegetable stock
- 1 lime
- 1-2 red chillies
- Small bunch fresh coriander, leaves picked
- Salt and pepper for seasoning
Heat the olive oil in a pan in a heavy based, lidded pan and add the onions giving them a stir so they get coated in the oil. Rest the lid on the pan and keeping the heat low sweat the onion for around 10 mins, stirring occasionally, until translucent.
While the onion is cooking, peel and deseed the squash and chop the flesh into 1 inch cubes. Peel the sweet potatoes and chop into 1 inch cubes. Peel and finely chop the garlic cloves.
Once the onions are cooked, add the squash, sweet potatoes, garlic, star anise, crushed pink peppercorns, cinnamon sticks, bay leaf and chilli powder. Stir the ingredients to combine, pour over the vegetable stock and stir again.
Simmer for 20 minutes or until the squash and potatoes are cooked. Discard the star anise and cinnamon sticks and blend the soup until smooth adding more liquid if you prefer a thinner consistency.
Zest and juice the lime and finely chop the red chillies removing the seeds.
Before serving stir the lime juice through the soup and season to taste. Ladle into the serving bowls and to each bowl add a mound of coriander leaves. Decorate with the lime zest and chillies.