We’re officially turning the heat on in our flat today. But in the meantime, we’re heating ourselves from the inside out with this rich, creamy, vegan, autumnal, filling soup and some fresh soda bread.
I love the fennel in this– it offers a little respite from the pumpkin-spice mania bombarding our senses and blogrolls this time of year. Roasting all the veg for this soup does incredible things to the depth of flavour, and the red lentils disappear into the creaminess while leaving you full and happy for hours.
I cannot even begin to describe the aromas filling my kitchen at this stage.
Let’s walk through it, shall we? You chop the veg (just a little!) and brush them down with some olive oil… (Photo credit: the lovely Mary McCorkle. I don’t have an incredibly long left arm or a selfie stick.)
Give them all a liberal sprinkling of salt and pepper…
And roast in a hot oven until they’re just blackening around the edges and the butternut is soft enough to be pierced easily with a fork. You’ll roast a handful of garlic cloves, as well, but just for 15 minutes sometime in the process. I pop them on the tray at the beginning, still in their little papery covers, and then pull them out a third of the way through the roasting process.
While all that roasting madness is happening, you’ll put a cup of red lentils on to boil in some vegetable stock (or chicken, if you’re not trying to keep it vegan) so that they can simmer for 20-30 minutes and be ready to blend with the vegetables when they come out of the oven.
Let me take a minute to talk about red lentils. These little guys are the unsung heroes of creamy vegan soups. Packed with protein, iron, fibre, and a whole host of other key nutrients, they fall apart when cooked and have a mild flavour that disappears easily into the background. What I’m saying is that they boost the filling-factor, the creamy nuttiness, and the nutritional content of pureed vegetable soups while not interfering with the flavour combos you’re trying to fine-tune. I toss a cup or two of red lentils into most of my blended veg soups these days.
Where were we? Right. So once your vegetables have roasted up nicely, you toss them into the pot (take the garlic cloves out of their little papers at this point!) with the red lentils and stock and let them simmer for about 10 minutes, just to soften them up that little bit more and let your flavours all meld together. Note: you’ll need to remove the squash from its skin once it has cooked. This can be a bit fiddly, but I promise it’s less work than chopping the squash ahead of time with a less-than-ninja-sharp knife. I use a fork and a spoon to scoop/scrape/coax it out. Butternut squash skin is also edible, so don’t freak out if a few little bits end up in your finished soup!
Then all that’s left is to blend everything together…
Stir in the coconut milk and a good squeeze of lime juice, add salt and pepper to taste, and serve!
Creamy Roasted Butternut Squash and Fennel Soup
2 small or 1 large butternut squash, halved, seeds removed
1 small onion, quartered
5 whole cloves garlic, still in their peels
1 bulb fennel, trimmed and quartered
Salt & pepper
1 cup (200g) red lentils
4 cups (950ml) vegetable stock
1 tin (400ml) coconut milk
- Preheat oven to 200°C/400°F/gas mark 6. Arrange squash, onion, garlic, and fennel on a lined baking sheet, brush with olive oil, and sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper. Roast for 40-50 minutes, or until butternut squash can easily be pierced with a fork. Remove garlic cloves after first 15 minutes.
- While vegetables are roasting, bring lentils and vegetable stock to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes, or until lentils are soft.
- Add roasted vegetables into lentil liquid, carefully removing butternut squash flesh from the skins (skin is edible, but the squash will still be very hot). Simmer together for 10 minutes.
- Blend mixture using an immersion blender or standard blender. Stir in coconut milk and a good squeeze of lime juice, and season to taste with salt and pepper.