Monday, 22 November 2010

Winter soups: Butternut squash, sweet potato and thyme

I blinked and winter arrived. What the hell happened to autumn? Where did all the lovely golden leaves disappear to, apart from my windscreen? And how am I supposed to keep a flat with 80 year-old sash windows warm?  Ripley the cat has the right idea and has spent the last 2 weeks lying on a radiator but I'm currently rattling round a draughty Victorian flat praying for spring.

On the other hand cooking in winter is one of the nicest things I can think of to do. And while a day making meatballs is fantastically luxurious sometimes even the simplest of recipes can be just as satisfying. Soup never seems to take much effort but the right combination of flavours with warm bread and butter can fill me up as much as any large pasta dish or Sunday roast. And when the ground is hard as ice and you can see your own breath, a soup for lunch will warm you through and prepare you for the rest of the day.

This velvety butternut squash soup has a hint of thyme and a chili kick and can be served as a starter or stand-alone meal.  I chose to steam the vegetables rather than roasting them as I wanted an even colour and texture that would blend into a thick velouté. A crunchy texture was added with a toasted garlic and chili garnish. Ideal with warm bread: Dough!.

Butternut squash, sweet potato and thyme soup
  • 800g butternut squash, peeled and cubed
  • 400g sweet potato, peeled and cubed
  • 2 shallots, roughly chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 5 sprigs thyme
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to season
  • 1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 bird's eye chili, halved lengthways with seeds
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • Sprigs of thyme 
  1. Prepare the squash and sweet potato by peeling and chopping into cubes. The sweet potato takes less time so cut these a little larger.
  2. In a large sauté pan fry off the garlic and shallots in the olive oil for 5 minutes or until soft, but don't let them colour. Add the squash and sweet potato and coat with the shallots and oil.  Tuck the sprigs of thyme under the veg and add 2 tbsp of water. Cover the pan with a lid and allow to steam on a low heat for approximately 20 minutes or until the vegetables are soft enough to mash stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.
  3. Once ready carefully remove all the sprigs of thyme and transfer the contents of the pan to a food processor or jug blender and blend for approximately 5 minutes.  The longer you blend this mix, the smoother the velouté will be. Once you have a completely smooth purée add a little water until you have the consistency of custard or double cream.  At this point season to taste.
  4. Transfer the soup to a saucepan and simmer on a low heat until hot (but do not allow to boil) before transferring to serving bowls
  5. Lightly fry the sliced garlic and chili in 2 tbsp olive oil and use to dribble attractively over the surface of the soup. Garnish with thyme if desired.
If you do not have a food processor or a jug blender you can use a hand-held blender, but it will take longer to achieve a smooth velouté. Alternatively pass the vegetables through a mouli or sieve.


  1. I may have to give this a try, i have never made a soup before but this sounds delicious.

  2. Please let me have feedback if you do! I loved can really taste the thyme in the background of it. How'd your anniversary meal go?

  3. Love squash soup but not tried it either with sweet potato or thyme. The colour is especially lovely at this time of year when it's so grey and cold outside.