Soup from the spectrum

We are two days into spring and our thoughts turn to lifting our spirits.It is at this time every year that paint manufacturers launch on us their new range of colour swatches.Colour plays such an important role in our lives and is something I have always been fascinated by.At art college I presented a project to my fellow students on the psychology behind the colour of food and  how it influences what we eat. I added food colouring to foods we eat everyday; for example I asked my audience to drink milk that was black.Regardless of the fact that the taste remained unchanged the response was not surprisingly 100% negative."Computer said NO." The brain was telling them it was wrong. In my previous incarnation as a graphic designer I constantly found myself working with colour swatches and colour matching systems.I have always loved thumbing through these colour charts like a spectrum flicker book.Yesterday I was flicking through the CIN paint chart and realised the spring colour range was close to the soup I was cooking.It occured to me that there must be a subliminal connection between my cooking and my days behind a drawing desk.I decided my  butternut squash soup was PO DE ESTRELA E263.I will now be even more conscience of the colour in the food I am presenting.Next stop peas - I am excited.

Butternut squash soup - Sopa abobora manteiga
The intrinsic sweetness of the butternut squash is what makes this soup.Try to get hold of the best squash available.If you  cannot find any butternut, try substituting it with one of the many other squash or pumpkin varieties.This soup contains a large amount of butter which can be reduced but you should however try this version once.
1kg butternut squash
1 large onion
200g unsalted butter
1 litre water
Up to 750g full fat milk
salt and cayenne pepper
Peel the squash, halve it lengthways and scoop out the seeds.Slice the flesh as thinly as possible ( on a mandolin ( if you have one) or a vegetable peeler. Halve the onion,then peel and slice it as thinly as possible too.Take a heavy based casserole, large enough to hold all the ingredients.Sweat the onion and squash with 150g of the butter over a medium to low heat for 10 minutes.Turn up the heat, add the water,bring to the boil,then simmer for 30 minutes or until the vegetables are soft.Remove from the heat, liquidise.The soup will need thinning with the milk Add enough to  obtain your desired consistency, but make sure that you are not diluting the flavour too much.To finish, re-heat gently,whisking in the remaining butter (optional ). Sprinkle with a light dusting of cayenne pepper and a leaf motif. Check the seasoning and serve.
Garnish with some croutons and a bit of parmesan.For something a little different try "self" croutons. Lightly sautée some cubed butternut squash to give some added bite, or for a fresher taste contrast the soup with some cubed melon croutons.This is something to try with other soups - throwing in a little of the main ingredient cooked in a different way, to build layers of flavour.


  1. Beautiful soup! I agree, the color of the food is greatly reflective of the season (at least it should be!) Can't wait for beautiful spring produce and the amazing colors they'll paint on the plate!

  2. Lovely recipe. The cayenne adds a really nice bite to the squash.

    I will, I will, I will remember your tip about keeping some of the flesh back as a contrast.


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