Sunday, 8 September 2013


The influential women in my life have always been fans of butternut squash. I don’t know what it is. Walking through the market I feel as though four out of five people checking out the butternut squash are women, keenly regarding their specimen as they think of the infinite potential of the dinner that's somewhere on the horizon. I have never been able to figure out why this might be the case; admittedly it is perhaps a figment of my imagination. Perhaps I just ignore the men in the market. Nevertheless, I find it to be among the most comforting of ingredients to work with and that’s saying something since I don’t have any particular nostalgic memories of butternut squash as it was no part of my childhood in the Caribbean. I chose to create a velouté as it allows me to communicate many emotions in a single swipe. The vibrant color, silken texture, and reassuring comforting qualities of a warm butternut squash velouté are enough to stand on their own. However, the versatility of this wonderful ingredient allows for elevation of the eating experience. Candied walnuts add important texture contrast to the overall dish and similarly the parmesan crisp cuts right through the sweet components of the dish. The sage oil and smoked prosciutto work brilliantly well and elevates the soup to divine realms. Don’t take my word for it, have a go.

INGREDIENTS (serves 4):

·         1 medium sized butternut squash
·         3 shallots
·         80 g butter
·         1 litre vegetable stock
·         6 tbsp double cream
·         Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

·         1 ½ cup raw walnuts
·         1 ½ cup sugar
·         ½ tsp coarse salt

·         6 tbsp grated parmesan
·         ½ tsp smoked paprika

·         Sage oil and sage leaves
·         Smoked prosciutto

-          Peel, deseed, and chop the butternut squash into small cubes.
-          Peel and chop the shallots.
-          Add the butter to a large pan at medium heat
-          Sauté the shallots until just transparent then the butternut squash
-          Season to taste with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
-          When softened, add the vegetable stock to the pan and gently simmer for 10-15 minutes
-          In batches, purée the butternut squash in a blender and pass through a fine sieve for a velvety finish
-          Add the cream to the soup and stir through
-          Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary
-          Keep over a warm heat
-          To prepare the candied walnuts simply place sugar into a non-stick pan and melt the sugar over a medium heat
-          As soon as the sugar is fully melted add the raw walnuts and stir until sugar coating is evenly distributed
-          Working swiftly remove the walnuts from the pan and spread over a baking sheet to cool
-          For the parmesan crisps, mix the parmesan with the paprika and place on a lightly greased baking sheet in four circles
-          Flash under the broiler until just brown on the edges being sure to remove the parmesan from the oven quickly
-          Set aside crisps to cool
-          For the sage oil place a few sage leaves in olive oil over a low heat in shallow non-stick frying pan being sure not to fry the leaves
-          After 2 minutes set the oil aside to infuse
-          To assemble, place the smoked prosciutto with a few candied walnuts at the base of a wide soup bowl to one side
-          Ladle the warm soup into the bowl being sure now to cover the prosciutto
-          Pour a tablespoon of the sage oil over the soup and garnish with a few sage leaves

-          Add the parmesan crisp and a few extra candied walnuts if desired

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