Butternut squash and sweet potato soup

Oh dear – I’ve managed to wander off again from this site, haven’t I? Cooking has been happening, and indeed I’ve had a minor foody revolution after taking some nutrition ‘lessons’! But apparently I don’t get much mileage out of salads when it comes to food blogging (which I should work on, next year, as there’s a lot to be said!), but now that the weather is heading back to autumn, we find ourselves back in soup season and boy, do I have a lot of soup recipes! 🙂

The veg of the moment has been butternut squash, and I’ve been using quite a bit in butternut and red pepper soup of late. However, as it gets colder I’ve been hankering after something a little more substantial-feeling, and I discovered this butternut and sweet potato recipe lurking in my archives – you know, I don’t even remember making this?! Time to rectify that!

This recipe is one that lends itself well to my ‘bung everything in a pan’ method. I was quite surprised not to be roasting the squash, but nope: all in the pan. I could call this “all the orange” soup: squash, sweet potato, carrots, and red lentils.

Once cooked, I was a little surprised to see a slightly oiliness to the soup – but I hadn’t bothered using oil, or softening the onions. Ah! That’ll be from the tomato puree! But, a little fat in your cooking isn’t bad, and indeed can help make the flavour react better on your tongue, or so I read!

This is a nice hearty soup, with a thick and satisfying texture. both from the lentils and the starches in the sweet potato. The mix of flavours has a sweetness plus a little bit of depth. I think it’d go very well with some ham added, maybe even some beans, if you wanted to make it a bigger meal. Experiment with the herbs used, too, as this is the main additional flavour and therefore quite prominent.

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Enjoy! 🙂

Veggie shepherd’s pie

assembling the pie pic

Happy Easter! To balance out all that chocolate (I suspect!) the supermarkets have all had offers on their fresh veg this past week, so an excellent time to stock up on soup ingredients. And to balance out all that chocolate (I know! ;)) a perfect time for some more veggies-as-main-courses, too. This Veggie Shepherd’s Pie is a perfect healthy and hearty, warming dish with the added benefit of a whole lot of flexibility! Make it all at once, freeze it, or make the sauce separately and add fresh sweet potato when you’re ready to eat. I made this a month ago, eating a single portion of the four. This can feel like a long-to-make meal – it’s not really, but anything with more than one step can be too much effort, right? 😉 Making the sauce – chop carrots and bung stuff into a pan for a while; making the topping – if you dice the sweet potato it cooks in 15 minutes or less; and finally assembling (tip: press the mash on rather than trying to spread it, which moves the base in a messy way) and baking.

The other three portions of the sauce base went into the freezer (in individual portions) so today I could defrost the sauce and use up one of my fresh bag of sweet potatoes (the rest went into a Sweet Potato and Chilli soup – nom!). I both defrosted and heated the base in the microwave, so it was warm under the new mash, and the whole thing only took 20 minutes in the oven, and around 40 minutes total. Had I cooked the whole thing from frozen, it would have taken 40 minutes in the oven, so either approach has benefits. At least this way I didn’t have to find quite as much space in my freezer, and didn’t ‘lose’ a dish in the meantime! I’m sure I could find other uses for that base sauce – it’s very tasty! It’s also a great way to use up carrots, and – as the recipe notes say – the secret to this dish is making sure you leave a little firmness and ‘bite’ in the carrots, rather than letting them cook to mush. The green lentils also add to the heartiness, while just a small amount of red lentils soak up any extra juices. I’d recommend the sweet potato over regular – in fact, I may have to try that more in general, as it is a healthier choice – as it goes so well with the flavours here, adding that bit of sweet to the red wine and herb richness, and the slight tang from the cheese sprinkles. Veggie Shepherd's Pie photo

Sweet potato and chilli soup

bowl of soupMORE soup?! I do cook other things, honest, but in this season I also cook a *lot* of soup! Generally I try to whip up a big pot every other weekend – this gives me a healthy, go-to meal for thle week (either lunch, or supper if I’ve eaten a bigger meal during the day), and the remainder can (usually) be frozen. I say ‘every other week’, as I don’t want to get fed up of eating nothing but soup!

This week, it was the turn of Sweet Potato and Chilli soup. With no lentils (for a change!) this is a thinner soup than many that I make, so you might want to add a little less liquid; it also tends to feel a little less filling – good or bad, as the situation calls for.

It also needs blended – I’ve become a huge fan of stick blenders for this, after realising that they don’t hurt the saucepan. No more transferring batches to my not-quite-big-enough jug blender! Just make sure you don’t lift the blender out of the pan while it’s still on – recipe for mess, and I speak from experience 😉

I’ve put fresh chillies in the recipe, but to be honest I’m lazy and I’ll usually just use powder. I prefer it, finding it easier to gage the heat. This time I went with fresh, and discovered my little packet was near heat-less, which was a tad disappointing. Stick to a quarter to a half teaspoon of chilli powder, depending on taste.