Here’s a wonderfully comforting soup, brightened with fresh ginger and chilli, to lift your spirits and warm the cockles of your heart.
It’s also fabulously easy and takes no more than 20 minutes ‘active’ time.
Winter soups can sometimes lean a little close towards cloying, but this strikes a very delicious balance between thick and comforting and bright and spicy. It’s also vegetarian and vegan, gluten and dairy-free.
To a large extent it is a “That’ll Do” soup, in that precise measurements don’t really matter, so let me bestow upon you the freedom to chuck in what you have to hand: keep the chilli seeds in for fiery spice, add more ginger/garlic to taste, etc.
Spiced Sweet Potato & Butternut Squash Soup
1 butternut squash
2 sweet potatoes
2tbs vegetable oil
3 red chillies
3 cloves of garlic
8cm bulb of fresh ginger – 3-4 thumb-sized pieces.
2 tbs vegetable bouillon
- Cut the butternut squash and sweet potatoes in half lengthways and place on a lined baking sheet, cut side up.
- Put the baking sheet in the oven and turn the heat to 200C, 180C Fan. BONUS: while they bake, the oven will smell like cake.
- Bake for 1 hour, then remove from the oven and set aside to cool.
- When cooled, scoop the seeds from the squash and discard. Scoop the flesh of both into a bowl. Discard the skins.
- Peel and chop the onions and garlic. De-seed (or don’t) the chillies and chop. Chop the ginger (peel if you like, but I don’t).
- Heat the oil in a pan and add the chopped vegetables. Cook gently over medium heat for 5 minutes.
- Add the cooked squash/sweet potato and the bouillon.
- Add water to cover and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 10 minutes.
- Use a stick blender to blend the soup smooth.
- For best results, puree the soup in batches in a liquidiser. Blitz each batch for two minutes. Add more water if the soup is too thick.
- To store: ladle into suitable containers and freeze.
- To serve: Heat through gently. Taste & adjust seasoning.
A couple of weeks ago when I was overcome with indecision over what my next blog post might be, I turned to Twitter for suggestions, and this ultimately led to the post about Japanese Cotton-soft Cheesecake, as it seemed to satisfy a number of requests. However there were a couple of requests that weren’t helped by that post, and they were for something to help with rhubarb glut, and one from a Mum who wanted to make something with her son who was unable to eat eggs. I felt bad about disappointing these two people, but hopefully this post will go some way to set things to rights.
At various times recently, I’ve made a decision to try and rehabilitate some dish from my past which the mere thought of induces shudders of horror e.g. Ratatouille, and this week it’s the turn of semolina pudding. Still to be tackled is traditional porridge *shudder* <— see?
Semolina pudding was a staple of school lunches in the ’70s, usually served hot with a blob of sweet red (unidentifiable flavour-wise beyond colour) jelly-jam. The method of consumption was usually either to swirl the jam into the hot semolina for a ripple of pink sweetness throughout the bowl, or to save it for one decadent rewarding mouthful after having eaten all of the surrounding hot pudding. Semolina was comfort food. Stick-to-your-ribs filling. Quickly prepared and fantastically economical. And, to me at least, incredibly dull.
Traditionally in the UK, semolina pudding is made by heating milk in a saucepan, sprinkling over dry semolina and stirring it in until thickened (about 10 minutes) then adding sugar and cinnamon. A richer form might have eggs and/or butter whisked in, then be baked in a buttered dish in the oven for a further 30-40 minutes. Still very dull, though.
Until, that is, I spotted this recipe. It’s definitely a Baltic recipe, being most popular in Estonia, Finland and Sweden, and there are also versions scattered through Europe and Russia. It can be eaten hot or cold, in winter or summer, for breakfast or for pudding. Traditionally made with any tart fruit juice, it is known as klappgröt (folded porridge), vispgröt (whipped porridge) or trollgröt (magic porridge) in Swedish, also vispipuuro (Finnish name) or mannavaht (Estonian name). So of course of all of these names, I chose Magic Porridge – who wouldn’t want to eat something with the word ‘Magic’ in its name? Think of the delicious summer breakfasts, packed with fresh berries, that can be snuck (yes of course it’s a word!) into children under such a tempting title!
In a nutshell, cook 30g of semolina in about 400ml of tart fruit puree/juice with a little sugar, then when it is cold, whip it to a froth with electric beaters or a stand mixer. As the air is beaten into the mixture, the colour will lighten and the texture become, whilst not exactly mousse-like, then certainly like a thick fruit fool – but with no dairy! The rhubarb and strawberry was delicious, but I thought the blackcurrant version sublime. It would seem that the tart-er the fruit, the better it contrasts and cuts through the semolina’s more dense texture.
Left overnight, in the fridge, the mixture will settle and thicken up, but can quickly and easily be re-whipped into a lighter texture when required
I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to successfully rehabilitate traditional porridge (*more shuddering in horror*), but in terms of semolina pudding, Magic Porridge has certainly done the trick!
250g sharp-tasting fruit, fresh or frozen 
sugar to taste
30g dry semolina
- Put the fruit and four tablespoons of water into a saucepan over a very low heat.
- Cover and let simmer for 10 minutes until the juice is flowing and the fruit is soft.
- Mash to a puree or use a stick blender.
- Sweeten to taste. It’s best left on the sharp side. For children, a little extra can be added when it’s served for both sweetness and crunch.
- Measure the puree. Add water to make a total of 400ml.
- Return to the pan and heat through.
- Sprinkle in the dry semolina and stir.
- Continue cooking over a low heat, stirring to prevent it catching on the pan bottom, for 15 minutes or until the mixture has thickened and the semolina grains have softened.
- Pour into a bowl and cover with cling film to prevent a skin forming.
- When cold, whip the mixture into a light froth using either a stand mixture or an electric whisk.
- Serve with extra puree, sugar, milk or cream if liked.
 I used blackcurrants for one batch and then a mixture of rhubarb and strawberries in the other.