Easy to make, aromatic Roasted Butternut Squash soup
The last fall and the winter had been quite difficult. We faced a number of obstacles; some health issues, and some issues at work. However, we always remain optimistic, and we finally got down to do some blogging again. :)
After all, communicating with you makes us really happy. We also did an experiment regarding our living situation (housing etc.) and we may have some interesting news to share in the next few months.
In our blog, we share our lives, our travels and our recipes. As you know, we don’t like sharing the sour moments in life, and we prefer to share the beautiful things. The reason for this, is that we believe that thinking positively and thinking about the good things in life can inspire both you, the readers, and ourselves, to look forward to a better future.
Visiting lake Tsivlou
In this post, we will share some beautiful memories from Lake Tsivlou. You can check its location in this map.
Lake Tsivlou is an amazing alpine lake, situated at an altitude of 800m, on the east side of Mount Helmos and its relatively close to Kalavryta as well. This means that you can either visit it on a weekend, on a trip from Athens, or you can go from Kalavryta if you’re already staying there. It’s about 2 hours drive from Athens and about 1 hour from Kalavryta.
The lake was formed by a landslide more than 100 years ago, which blocked a nearby river. The result was a beautiful natural lake, with emerald-turquoise waters. As you can see on the photos, the waters are as clear as the seas on its shores. The slopes around the lake are dark green, with lush pines, fir and chestnut forests.
When you get there, you have to follow the map and park at a small opening on the side of the road, as there is now direct access to the lake shores by car. You have to walk about 5 minutes to get to the lake.
The lake is perfect for picnics and hiking. You will really enjoy the pristine nature around it and the quiet surrounding. You can also use a mountain bike to explore the forests around the lake.
The perfect seasons to visit the lake are the spring and the summer. You can also visit it during fall, as long as the weather is still nice and warm. We wouldn’t recommend it for the winter, as the road may be a little tricky due to ice and snow.
You can stay at some wonderful small B&Bs in the area, or you can stay at Kalavryta which have many more options for accommodation (as well as more options for food).
The photos that you see in this post were taken on a late October visit to the lake, when the colors of the trees were truly magnificent. On this journey, we bought one of our favorite winter vegetables: butternut squash.
Butternut squash is one of the most popular vegetables throughout fall and winter, and we try to use it as much as we can in countless recipes. You may remember the recipe for the Mediterranean oven baked vegetables that we shared last year. This year, we are sharing a different way to use the butternut squash: we are roasting it and using it in a soup!
We have been testing this recipe over and over again for many months, making sure we will deliver the best roasted butternut squash soup you ever tasted. And we finally think we did it! This soup is healthy, it has a super-rich flavor and it also has the most amazing orange color. It’s hearty, filling and warming and can be easily make your favorite comfort foods’ list. :)
This very recipe was served as a first dish on Christmas AND New Year’s lunch with family and it was a huge hit on both occasions, so we think it passed the test, since they all loved it! So you can definitely serve it in any special occasion too. It’s also an ideal choice for your meatless Mondays or if you’re following a vegetarian diet. You can also easily turn this into a vegan recipe, simply by replacing the butter with margarine.
The butternut squash
The butternut squash can be very intimidating if you are using it for the first time. :) However, there’s nothing to worry about; we ‘ve got you covered! We have an easy step by step guide on how to cut and clean a butternut squash at the beginning of the instructions. Keep in mind though, that you will need a heavy, sharp knife. The rest is relatively easy. The feeling that you get when you cut through the squash is more less the same with the one you get when you cut a slice of watermelon. Plus, keep in mind that the squash is small, about 1kg/2lb, so it’s not a big one and it’s easier to handle.
Why this soup?
There are many recipes online for butternut squash soup. What differentiates this one, is the roasting of the butternut squash (most recipes don’t include that) and the ingredients that we used.
You can add the butternut squash straight to the pot along with the rest of the ingredients, if you are in a hurry, like most people do nowadays. If you really want your soup to taste amazing though, you must roast the squash first, like suggested in the recipe. When you roast the squash, seasoned with salt and pepper, and placed face down, the natural sugars of the vegetable are beginning to caramelize, and this enhances the flavor when you add it into the soup later on.
Moreover, we added carrots, sweet potatoes, orange zest and spices like cardamom, fennel seeds and garam masala. These ingredients elevated the soup to a whole new level. If you are wondering what to do with the fennel seeds, the cardamom and the garam after this recipe, don’t worry. There are so many delicious recipes with these spices. For instance here are a few recipes which are using these: hummus, vegetarian stew, shrimp curry, mashed carrots, shrimp pasta, egg fried rice, orange glazed shrimp, cardamom muffins.
In order to make the soup smooth you can use a hand blender for a velvety texture, like we did in this recipe. If you use a classic blender, make sure to remove the little cap in the center of the lid and only fill it up to the middle; you have to blend in batches in this case to avoid any spilling out.
This soup is also a great make-ahead dish, that you can easily prepare on the day before and store in the fridge. On the next day, simply stir and warm it up before serving. It’s even more delicious than fresh, as the flavors have some extra time to develop. We tried this and it worked like a charm. You can even try to serve this at a potluck. We guarantee they will love it and ask you to bring some again.
Usually this soup is served with a dollop of sour cream or yogurt in order to balance its sweetness with the sour taste of the cream (or the yogurt). In this version, we chose to serve it with toasted pumpkin seeds and fresh thyme, giving it an earthy-lemony aftertaste and we think that this increases the deliciousness. You can also accompany the soup with good quality toasted crusty bread.
So let’s see how you can make this amazing, hearty soup!
- 1kg / 2lb butternut squash
- 500g / 1lb red sweet potatoes, cut in chunks
- 250g / 9oz (3 medium sized) carrots, cut in chunks
- 1.75lt (7 cups) water
- 3 vegetable bouillon cubes
- 1/4 teaspoon orange zest
- 1/2 teaspoon garam masala*
- 6 cardamom pods**
- 150g / 5oz (1 medium sized) onion, cut in chunks
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 1 stick / 115g / 4oz (1/2 cup) butter
- 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
- black pepper
*if you don’t have garam masala, you can use ¼ teaspoon all spice and ¼ teaspoon cumin for a similar result
** crush the pods, remove the seeds, place them in a mortar and grind them with the pestle.
Place the butternut squash on its long side on a steady surface, hold it firmly with one hand and use a large knife to cut off both ends (pic. 1, pic. 2).
Turn the squash so that the bottom end sits on the surface. Carefully slice it in half using the same large knife and rocking it back and forth with your hands (pic. 3). If you find this a bit difficult, than you can also first slice the squash in half in the middle of its length and then place each of these halves with its bottom on the surface and slice it in the middle by rocking the knife back and forth in the same manner. Scoop out the seeds with a metal spoon (pic. 4).
Coat the squash with olive oil and season with salt and pepper (pic.5). Cover a baking pan/tray with baking sheet and place the squash, on it face down (pic.6). Roast the squash for 45 minutes in 180C / 356F (convection / fan-assisted oven).
Remove the quash from the oven and set aside to cool. Using a spoon, scoop out the flesh and put it in a bowl to cool (pic.7). Put the butter in a small saucepan and heat until it melts. Remove from heat and add the fennel seeds (pic.8). Leave it aside for a few minutes so that the butter incorporates the flavor of the fennel seeds.
Strain the butter in a large pot (pic.9) and place over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until it softens, for 3-4 minutes (pic.10).
Add the carrots and the sweet potatoes (pic.11) and cook for another 5 minutes. Add the garlic and the garam masala (pic.12). Mix and cook for 5 more minutes.
Add the vegetable bouillon cubes (pic.13) and the water (pic.14) and simmer for 30 minutes in medium-low heat, with the lid on, half covering the pot.
Add the butternut squash (pic.15) and cook for 10-15 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and using an immersion blender, blend everything together (pic.16).
At this point be extra careful to use the blender as close to the bottom of the pot as possible, as the soup is super-hot and if it gets spilled around it could burn you. Use an apron as well. Safety first!
The result should be smooth and velvety (pic.17). Add the ground cardamom, the orange zest and the apple cider vinegar (pic.18). Mix well and serve with some toasted pumpkin seeds and fresh thyme on top of each bowl/plate.
Kali oreksi and please let us know what you think of the flavors of this recipe, in the comments section below!
1. You can serve this with a dollop of sour cream or yogurt, if you like.
2. You can serve this with some homemade croutons. Use a stale piece of bread, cut into pieces and sauté with a little olive oil in a frying pan, adding some garlic as well, until golden brown.
3. If you are vegan, you may replace the butter with margarine.
4. This soup is an excellent make ahead meal. Make it a day before serving it, like we did on New Year’s Eve, to let all the aromas and flavors of the ingredients to stand out.