Butternut Squash, Aubergine and Cep soup

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This is the kind of soup you find in the best restaurants and it cooks in just 15 minutes. Adding some of the charred skin of the roast aubergine lends the soup a smoky note.

Serves 4

Ingredients

1 large aubergine
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 clove garlic, sliced
200g cooked sweet potato or squash purée
5 dried ceps, reconstituted by soaking for 15 minutes in hot water
400ml chicken or vegetable stock, made from a good stock cube
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon sherry vinegar
100ml milk or single cream

Instructions

1. Roast the whole aubergine on a gas hob (see instructions below). Leave to soften, then scoop out the yellow flesh and place in a bowl with a teaspoon of the charred skin.

2. Melt the oil over a medium heat. Add the garlic and cook for a minute until fragrant.

3. Add the sweet potato or squash purée, the ceps and their soaking water, aubergine flesh and any aubergine juice left in the bowl, and the stock. Stir, bring to the boil, reduce the heat to low, put a lid on the saucepan and cook for 15 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary.  Leave to cool a little and add the sherry vinegar, stir and add the milk or cream.

4. Blend the soup with a hand blender or in a stand blender until smooth and creamy. Make sure it is cool enough before you do this and don’t overfill the blender.  Return the soup to a clean saucepan, add more water if you wish to thin it out and heat before serving.

How to roast an aubergine

Charring the aubergine gives a wonderful smoky taste to the soup, accentuating the muskiness of the ceps. If you have a gas hob it’s easy to do. Roast the aubergine on the gas ring over the bare gas flame. Turn with a tongs every few minutes until the skin is charred all over and the aubergine is almost collapsing. Put it into a plastic bag and leave for a minute or two to steam the skin. When it’s cool enough to handle, peel and scoop out the soft shredded insides. You can also bake a whole aubergine in a hot oven for 30-45 minutes on a baking tray or grill it until soft, turning it every few minutes when each part chars – make sure to pierce the aubergine a few times with a sharp knife first or it could explode! If you want to add a smoky note to a dish, reserve some of the charred skin and add a little, but be careful as it can be overpowering.

Recipe Notes and Variations

– To make 200g of sweet potato or squash purée, you’ll need about half a sweet potato or butternut squash. If you want to cook the potato or squash in the soup while you are making it, peel it, chop into small dice and add it with the stock, but don’t add the aubergine flesh and skin yet. Instead, cook the vegetable in the stock until it is very soft, then add the aubergine and cook for another 10 minutes. Proceed with the rest of the recipe.

– You can use the water in which the ceps have been reconstituted to make up part of the stock as long as you strain it first to remove any grit.

–  Store the soup in the fridge for up to 4 days in a covered container. This soup freezes well.

This recipe has been triple-tested in the gréatfood test kitchen.

Photograph © foodpixies.com

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