The perfect finish

One of my favourite things about this time of year is enjoying the fresh air when it is cold and crisp outside. I am not an outdoorsy kind of person, and I’m very sensitive to the cold (must be the Caribbean blood in me), but there is something about this time of year that has me yearning for a walk when the weather is right.

It was just such a day – clear and fresh – when we walked around some local haunts and also paid a visit to Secretts farm shop. I love this place, and always get a little over-excited when we go there. As well as having a wonderful array of seasonal produce, they have an amazing cheese counter. It is basically my perfect shop. However, it is not cheap, so B. and I don’t go there too often, otherwise we would be bankrupt!

Nevertheless, it’s great to go there once in a while. As well as picking up two of my favourite cheeses (Godminster Vintage Organic Cheddar and Munster), we wondered amongst the produce, looking at the selection of beets, carrots and root veg.

Then we came to the squash and pumpkins.

I’ve already professed my love of squash – colourful autumnal treasures; as well as their appearance, I love their wonderful sweetness and deeply coloured flesh. So when I saw these beauties at the farm shop, I had to buy a selection. They called out to me to turn them into soup – perfect for Halloween or Bonfire Night.

I decided to roast the squash to preserve their sweetness, along with thyme and sage – basically as I did with the butternut squash risotto. To balance out the sweetness I added that wonderful umami flavour by boiling the stock with a Parmesan rind (inspired by this recipe). Finally, I added smoked paprika to round the soup off – it made a huge difference.

This soup sings autumn and is just the thing after a cold day outdoors. The sweetness of the squash hits you first, followed by the comforting smokiness of the paprika and umami notes from the Parmesan. Then, finally,  the heat of the paprika comes through. It’s the perfect warming finish for a cold autumnal day.

Roasted squash, Parmesan and smoked paprika soup

1.2kg squash flesh
1.4 litres vegetable stock
20g pack of sage
Several sprigs of thyme
2 garlic cloves
Parmesan rind plus 20g grated
½ tsp smoked paprika

1. Peel the squash and cut into wedges. Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Place the squash in a roasting tin, season with sea salt and black pepper, then drizzle with olive oil. Roast the squash for 20 minutes.
2. Remove the tin from the oven and add the unpeeled garlic and chopped sage and thyme. Return to the oven and roast for a further 15-20 minutes until the squash is soft and starting to caramelise. Remove the roasted squash and garlic from the oven and leave to cool for a few minutes.
3. Meanwhile, simmer the stock in a large saucepan with the Parmesan rind. Once the squash has cooled, cut into small pieces. Add to the simmering stock along with the garlic, squeezed out of its skins, and cook for 10 minutes.
4. Remove the Parmesan rind, add the grated Parmesan, then pour the soup into a blender and blitz until smooth. Return to the pan, stir in the paprika, then serve.

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© 2015 Sharon Lane

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