Recipe for creamy winter squash soup

From James McNair’s Squash Cookbook, published by Chronicle Books, San Francisco, Serves 6.

He usually prepares this soup with pumpkin but other winter squash such as buttercup, butternut or Hubbard can be used with excellent results.

To prepare an edible serving bowl, cut off and reserve the top of a large whole squash of the same type used to prepare the soup. With a spoon, scoop out the seeds and stringy portions, replace the top, and wrap the stem with foil to prevent it from burning. Place in a shallow pan containing about a half-inch of water and bake in a preheated oven 350F/180C/gas 4, until the pumpkin is tender but still holds its shape, about 1 hour.

4 tbsp unsalted butter

1 cup (4oz) chopped leek, white part only

½ cup (2oz) chopped shallot

1½ lbs (700g) pumpkin, or other winter squash, peeled, cleaned, and cut into half-inch chunks, or 3 cups pureed cooked pumpkin or other winter squash

1½ lbs (700g) raw squash

1 quart homemade chicken stock or chicken broth

1 cup (8flozs) heavy whipping cream or light cream

1 cup (8flozs) freshly squeezed orange juice

½ tsp ground ginger salt, freshly ground

White pepper crème fraiche or sour cream

Chopped toasted hazelnuts for garnish

Minced orange zest for garnish

In a large heavy saucepan, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the leek and shallot and sauté until very tender and golden, about 8 minutes.

Add the pumpkin or other squash and chicken stock or broth. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer until the squash is tender, about 30 minutes. (If using pumpkin or other squash puree, simmer for about 15 minutes.) Working in batches, transfer to a food processor or blender and puree. Place in a clean saucepan, add the cream, orange juice, ginger and salt and pepper to taste. Place over medium heat, stirring frequently, until hot; do not boil. Carefully pour into baked pumpkin shell if desired (see above). Ladle into preheated bowls, add a dollop of crème fraiche or sour cream, and garnish with toasted hazelnuts and orange zest.

Note: To toast hazelnuts, place in a shallow pan in a 350F/180C/gas 4 oven, stirring frequently, until the nuts are golden under their skins.

Transfer to a plate to cool. Rub nuts between fingertips to remove skins.

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