Making your own soup is a great way to eat lots of vegetables, to choose your favourite combination of flavours to make up a one-bowl meal, and to make dinner without really having to do anything apart from chop the ingredients. It is the undervalued meal of our time. I mean, if you’re choosing something to eat for your lunch during the week, the tins of soup in the supermarket can often give you that sinking feeling. It’s boring, it’s small, it’s too salty. Always too salty!
But the beauty of making your own lies in fact that it is the nemesis of tinned soup! You can make a lot (and then take some to work – double win), you can pack it full of flavour, and your hunger will be more than satisfied. Trust me – I say this recipe caters for two main meals, but you will be stuffed. And if you want to make it even simpler, just serve it straight from the pan: blending is purely my preference. So much so that Mr Whole Ingredient has his un-blended and chunky, while my portion gets the Vitamix treatment. Both are superb.
Another note about the greatness of soup: If you still think it’s not jazzy enough for dinner (firstly, try this recipe before continuing with that thought), have you considered the vast scope there is for toppings? Toppings! And I’m not talking croutons. Pictured here are chilli flakes and sesame seeds, which really compliment the flavours of squash, sage, garlic and mushrooms, but what you don’t see is what happened next. Nutritional yeast, an extra dash of tamari, black pepper and then – then – a delicious spoonful of peanut butter. Yes, you really can put peanut butter on everything.
I think you’ll be surprised by the complexity of flavours that are packed into this soup. The chestnuts bring a beautiful velvety texture and nuttiness, which together with the squash carry the sage and spices through every mouthful and really bring it alive. They are the smooth, comforting undercurrent of this warming bowl. The inclusion of chilli just gives it that lift, to take it from ‘homely’ to ‘wow’, which isn’t often a descriptor I use for soup.
So, what’s not to love? Here are a few more reasons why you should put a pan on to simmer right away:
- chestnuts, as well as being high in fibre, have lots of B vitamins that are great for your brain;
- butternut squash (which belongs to the category of ‘fruit posing as vegetable’) is a superfood for many reasons. But have you noticed how your hands turn orange when you peel it? It is full of the nutrients that can protect against heart disease and it packs a huge dose of vitamin C! So many antioxidants in one bright package;
- chillies have great anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting powers, which is fantastic for those pesky winter illnesses;
- after a long, busy day, what could be more rewarding than putting a handful of ingredients into a pan, sitting down for half an hour, then being rewarded by a magical transformation in a bowl? Hassle -free, flavour-full!
Here’s my simple recipe for Spiced Chestnut Soup; guaranteed to make your evenings toasty-warm.
- 1 tsp organic rapeseed / olive oil
- 1 red chilli
- 6 cloves garlic
- 1 red onion
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- 250g mushrooms (chestnut, closed cap)
- 1 butternut squash
- 200g chestnuts
- 10 fresh sage leaves
- 1 tin (400g) chopped tomatoes
- 800ml water
- 1 tbsp tamari (or other soy sauce)
- Optional: 2 tsp sesame seeds, 2 tsp dried chilli flakes
- Heat the oil to a moderate temperature in a large pan.
- Slice the chilli, garlic and onion and add these to the oil and stir. Leave to cook gently for 5 minutes. Add the spices and stir until combined.
- Wash and slice the mushrooms and add these to the pan.
- Peel the squash, remove the seeds and fibres and cut into 1cm cubes. Chop the sage leaves and chestnuts and add all of these to the pan. Follow with the chopped tomatoes and water, stir and cover with a lid.
- Leave to simmer for 30-35 minutes.
- When cooked, add the tamari and blend until smooth in a food processor.
- Serve with a sprinkling of the sesame seeds and dried chilli flakes and some toasted bread.
For tips on peeling squash, check out my Clementine Miso Noodle Bowl recipe.