For El: The last winter soup

This is for my beloved friend El. Even though we may spend months without communicating properly-my fault mostly, she is one of the very few people I will call immediately to share the important events of my life. El, this soup adventure is dedicated to you!

Coming home from a day full of lectures and seminars and having eaten only a piece of carrot cake and a very interesting pancake sandwich (pancake+lemon custard filling+pancake!), the last thing one wants is to peel and cut a butternut squash to make a soup, right? Well, I have to say, Waitrose’s ready-made soups during our second shopping experience with my friend K were very tempting. Amazing combinations of flavors, plus they actually look homemade. But I thought of the very nice small (and organic!) butternut squash that I had bought last week at Borough Market, and which was getting very lonely in my fridge, so I walked away from the soup isle. Friend K suggested that I make a Vietnamese soup with tofu, and advised me to first fry it and then add it to the soup. I have only cooked with tofu once, during a recipe testing session, and I wasn’t impressed. K uses it for its texture, adding it even to chicken soups. To my understanding it needs lots of spices to flavor it. I will experiment soon.

I arrived home freezing and extremely hungry. Butternut squash soup it is! I realized I had no onions so I skipped that step. If you have, gently fry some onions. I browned some butter in my pot and peeled the butternut squash. Yes, maybe those ready-made soups weren’t such a bad idea I thought, feeling more and more hungry. And now I can understand why they sell the pre-cut squash, my hands would say if they could speak. But I ignored them and got lost in my thoughts, as I was peeling and chopping and thinking and peeling and chopping. No matter how tired or hungry I am, there is nothing more relaxing than this…

Butternut squash is now cut in tiny pieces so that it cooks faster. I add it to the pot and stir. After a few minutes I add some chicken stock. Vegetable would also do, whatever you have available. Today I will use my friend J’s amazing trick: put some nuts in a frying pan, let them brown a bit to release their flavors, and blend them in the soup. I have hazelnuts that complement perfectly the squash. Now I only need to find a nut cracker. Um…But there is no nut cracker in the house. I have to be creative.

Oh, I would have never had imagined dinner tonight would be such an adventure! After throwing some hazelnuts on the floor, stepping on them, trying to crack them open with the back of my knife and then with the can opener (you never know dear reader, it could have worked!), I place one on my chopping board and hit it with the back of my wooden spoon. Half-success. The nut is cracked and in pieces, but is scattered on the floor. Smart as I am, I wrap a kitchen towel around another hazelnut and hit it again! Success. It breaks into pieces, which means that you now have small pieces of hazelnut and well...dust, but that will do. Proud (and relieved that I am now closer to dinner time), I continue banging and cracking a few more hazelnuts when the cracking noise sounds slightly different than the previous ones. I look at my wooden spoon and yes, dear reader, it is broken in half.

I manage to locate the other half by the sink, admit defeat, set everything aside and decide to work with the few nuts that I’ve got. It is dinner for one after all, they will do. And I make a note to get a nut cracker at some point.

Hazelnuts are in the pan for a few minutes. I add them to the (soft by now) butternut squash-stock mixture. I blend everything together contemplating sage, tarragon, bacon, cream. Finally, I add a bit of cream and stir. I serve with some fried pieces of bacon on top.

It is now 10.30, I think it’s been two hours since I came home, my hands are yellow from the butternut squash and I think my finger is burnt (not sure how that happened), my kitchen is a mess and I have destroyed a wooden spoon. But I am sitting on my couch with a delicious yellow soup in front of me and with a huge smile on my face. It is so worth it! Who cares about ready-made soups? This is the best dinner I’ve had in a long time and the perfect way to say goodbye to winter and welcome spring.

El, do try it, you’ll love it ;)


  1. Amazing!! Sounds delicious, and worth the loss of the spoon! ;) You can save time on the squash - instead of peeling and chopping, just cut into halves or quarters, place in a roasting pan shell-side-down with some water in the bottom, and into the oven at 175F for about 10-15 min. Will just easily scoop out of the shell/peel with a big spoon into your soup pot. No tedious chopping or peeling required!

  2. Thanks K, will definitely try it!


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