Organic vegetables and a punchy soup

You are probably aware by now that something is afoot in the atmosphere, and there are rumblings from Toyota Pious drivers everywhere that it might even be our fault, and that we should be doing our best to make a change. It’s a bit of a moral nightmare for most of us. For every cause that we support, for every time we walk instead of drive, or for every shower we take instead of bath, there is always someone rolling their eyes and telling us that we could be doing more. While finding eco-piety utterly nauseating there is no escaping the fact that these people are unequivocally right (perhaps part of the reason for the nausea). It can be quite daunting.

I would gingerly suggest that the current economic climate might go some way to aiding the ecological one. The implications of driving everywhere or leaving the lights on are no longer focused on the effect your wastage is having on the environment, but also on your wallet. We now have two reasons for being careful with our energy. And this can only be a good thing.

So what can we do to stay green in the kitchen? Well, the possibilities are endless – use the oven as little as possible, keep your fridge at the right temperature, avoid the dishwasher, buy a pressure cooker. But my big beef is with supermarket vegetables, so I have started getting an organic vegetable box delivered weekly to the flat. In my box were, amongst other things, sweet potatoes and broccoli. Local, organic, in season. In the supermarket these had come from Israel and Kenya. Alarm bells are ringing. Can you sit down with a clear conscience and eat greens that are so clearly not green at all? The ecological effect of imported produce is terrifying, not to mention the fact that it cripples our own farmers (oh, I just did).

The quality of my local veg is, needless to say, remarkably better than its supermarket counterparts, but, as I have pointed out, we’re now more wary of our wallets than ever, so I think it’s only fair to compare prices. I can’t start harping on about buying local organic ingredients when you can get them for half the price in the shops. So I dismount from my high horse and get out my calculator. Long story short, the equivalent (in weight and size, not quality) vegetables came to just under a pound cheaper in total than the organic box. Now, if this is the difference between you sleeping on the street and having a roof over your head, then fine. If not, have a think about what you’re doing next time you reach for Brazilian beans.

Perhaps the most majestic of the Gourd family, the butternut squash, is sitting proudly in my box. Unwilling to go through the rigmarole of peeling the thing, I cleaver it in half down the middle, pull out the seeds and roast it with some garlic. The result is a rich, intense and velvety soup. Just try not to feel too guilty about using the oven – it’s a cooking blog for Pete’s sake, it’s going to come into play at some point.

Roast butternut squash soup

Serves 6

1 large butternut squash
1 head of garlic
1 onion, peeled and chopped
1 1/2 litres chicken stock

Preheat the oven to 200C.

With a large knife (with a small one you will find this nigh on impossible) cut the squash straight down the middle and pull out the seeds. Cut the garlic in half horizontally and put half in each scoop of the squash. Season generously with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil. Roast for an hour and a half until it is as soft as an over-ripe peach and deliciously brown at the edges.

Leave to cool a little while you soften the onion in a little oil in a large saucepan. Scoop out the amber flesh from the squash, discarding the skin and half the garlic. Add the squash to the pan and squidge out the roast garlic into it also. Add the stock and simmer for 5 minutes. Blend thoroughly (make sure the soup is really hot at this point, which helps to ensure a smooth soup) and serve with a swirl of cream and some crusty bread.

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