If you haven't cooked with butternut before, this is the best place to start.
Growing up in South Africa, butternut was (and still is) a regular on the dinner table. The beautiful orange squash is used in soups, stews, salads, sides and even baked whole (or stuffed) in an oven or over coals.
The cooked flesh of butternut is wonderfully dense and smooth – it is brilliant just roasted and steamed with a little butter, salt and pepper. It marries very well with most herbs (especially mint, sage, rosemary and thyme) and spices (coriander, cumin, cinnamon, chilli) and can also be used for sweet baking.
This is my favourite butternut soup recipe, I hope you like it!
Butternut is high in vitamins A and C, folate, potassium and fibre. It is low in GI, so keeps you fuller for longer.
Put away the peeler
For the vast majority of savoury butternut recipes, keep the skin on. Yes, on.
Don’t be tempted to peel the tough exterior, it’s not necessary for most recipes. Butternut skin cooks to a soft texture that is easy to eat and digest (if fully cooked). Why waste all that wonderful fibre? You’ll be amazed that the skin blends into a wonderfully smooth and velvety soup. It’s a great way to ramp up the fibre in a meal and really reduces preparation time!
2 tablespoons coconut oil, olive oil or butter
1 red onion, chopped
2 celery sticks, diced
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 bay leaf
1 thumb-sized chunk of ginger, finely sliced
1 medium butternut – in chunks (skin on)
1 tablespoon veg stock / bouillon
2 cloves garlic, crushed
Water (or stock, omit bouillon)
Ground pepper and salt to taste
4 tablespoons pumpkin seeds (or pine nuts)
Squeeze of lemon
Drizzle of olive oil
Sprinkling of feta or goat’s cheese (optional)
Heat the oil over a medium heat in a saucepan and sauté the celery and onion until the onion is translucent.
Add the turmeric, ground cumin, ground coriander, ginger and bay leaf and sauté until you can smell the aromas being released – be careful not to burn the spices.
Add the butternut chunks, stir and allow to sweat with the onion and spices for 1-2 minutes
Add the bouillon and enough water (or stock) to just cover* the vegetables, a good grind of black pepper and bring to a simmer
While the soup is cooking, gently toast the pumpkin seeds (or pine nuts) in frying pan, tossing every 30 seconds until you can smell them become ‘nutty’. Watch these like a hawk, burnt seeds are bitter!
The butternut is ready when it is soft and easily gives way under the pressure of a fork.
Stir in the crushed garlic** and remove the pot from the heat
Blend the soup until smooth with a stick blender, or in batches in a liquidiser (allow to cool a little for the latter). Adjust seasoning to taste and add more water or stock to reach the consistency you like.
Ladle into bowls and sprinkle with torn coriander leaves, toasted pumpkin seeds and a little drizzle of olive oil and lemon juice. You can also add a crumble of feta for a slightly saltier and creamier dish.
*Butternuts can vary in water content - if you add too much liquid to begin with, you could end up with watery soup. Rather add more later on, if you need to.
**The longer garlic is exposed to air, the more allicin it develops. That's the compounds that makes garlic SO good for us.