Winter squashes, the tough-skinned ones, usually keep well, but are harder to peel. If you’ve a tried and true way of peeling squash, stick with it. But if the job seems daunting, try tackling it in small bits. Take butternut, for example. First truncate the squash where the neck meets the body. Next slice the body longitudinally in half, then into quarters. Scoop out the seeds. To make small dice for purées and soups, cut each quarter crosswise into ½-inch slices and pare away the skin with a small sharp knife. Then cut the slices into ½-inch dice. For the neck, just cut into ½-inch rounds, peel and dice, and you’re ready to make this delectable soup.
1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded and diced (about 2 ¼ –2 ½ lbs.)
1 small onion, peeled and diced
2 Tbs. or so butter
salt, pepper, and a fresh sage leaf
3 cups water
1 cup fresh apple cider (or juice)
1 small apple, cored and cut into ¼-inch dice
1 Tbs. or so butter
4-6 fresh sage leaves, finely chopped
4-6 tablespoons heavy cream or stirred sour cream
drizzle of maple syrup
In a large pan, slowly sweat the onion in 2 tablespoons butter and a teaspoon of water. Stir often and cook until onion is soft and translucent, about 10 minutes. Mix in diced squash, seasoning well with salt and pepper. Add water, cider and a large sage leaf. Bring to the boil, then simmer, covered, for 30 minutes or until squash is perfectly tender. Cool soup slightly then blitz in batches in a blender (or purée with an immersion blender straight in the pot).
To finish: Sauté diced apple in butter until golden, and stir in sage. Check soup for seasoning and gently reheat. Ladle soup into warm individual bowls. Swirl in cream. Spoon over apple and sage, and drizzle in a few spots of maple syrup.