The following recipe is inspired by one from Nigella Christmas, a book which is always a great source of comfort and inspiration to me at this time of the year. Nigella Christmas is a colourful and calorie-filled collection of recipes which are ideal at Christmas, but also for parties and entertaining in general. Oftentimes throughout the year, I find myself cooking from this book whenever we have a large gathering, particularly since a lot of the recipes are in the “serves 16-20 people” category. Though, most of the recipes can easily be scaled down to accommodate more sensible headcounts.
Nigella’s Roast Squash and Sweet Potato Soup is a lovely update on a similar recipe in Nigella Express. Although the recipe specifies butternut squash, I instead used pumpkin which is more readily available where I live.
The vegetables for the soup are first roasted in the oven with a sprinkling of cinnamon and nutmeg which later lend a gentle spiciness to the soup. As I could quite happily sit down to a tray of roast vegetables as a meal, I had to resist helping myself to a more than a few golden chunks of pumpkin and sweet potato as they came out of the oven.
I had initially thought that roasting the vegetables would be an unnecessary step, particularly in terms of washing up. But whilst roasting the vegetables would take a little longer than if you were to simply cook the vegetables in the stock, the end result is absolutely worth it; the flavours are more robust and the colour of the soup is more intense. And, to be honest, hardly any effort is required of you to stick a tray of chopped veges into the oven.
I think this soup will be a new favourite in our home, and not just at Christmas time.
One obvious deviation I took from Nigella’s recipe was to peel the veges. I know Nigella is a bit lazy sometimes and quite proud of her shortcuts, but I couldn’t bring myself to not peel the sweet potatoes, especially knowing in advance that they would later be whizzed up into the soup. Sometimes I am happy to eat roasted vegetables, like potatoes and sweet potatoes, with the skin on, but most of the time I find that the skin is an unnecessary and chewy obstacle to what could be a really good meal. So if you are using butternut squash and sweet potatoes in this soup, feel free to leave them unpeeled à la Nigella.
Nigella suggests freezing the soup but I have never thought to freeze soups of this kind before. Could anyone please tell me if vegetable soups like these freeze well? Do you lose any flavour upon thawing?
14 October 2013: I recently served this soup as a starter at a cocktail party and it was an instant hit. Poured into little espresso or coffee cups, they were a dainty surprise to our guests and it set the tone nicely for the canapés which followed. Allow guests to top up with a big jug of soup nearby.