This is the most beautiful time of the year to live in Ottawa/Gatineau. We are privileged to be treated to a spectacular colour show put on by Mother Nature. People travel from all over the world to drive through our countryside and see the lights and colours before the cold winds of November blow all those beautiful leaves away.
It’s a wonderful time of year to get out and enjoy a good hike, and Ottawa is surrounded by excellent hiking opportunities. This past weekend Julie hiked the Meech Lake Trail and took these beautiful pictures. I was in Wakefield for a short hike, and a glass of wine at Le Hibou, overlooking the river and the hills. It was a beautiful day. Explore Magazine has a really great list of the 10 best hikes near Ottawa.
You can also find an abundance of colour at the local Farmer’s Markets, where the harvest is still in full swing. Colourful pumpkins & squashes, late harvest tomatoes, an abundance of cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower, cabbage and Brussels sprouts, and colourful carrots, make a Chef very happy. The weather is cool and we can enjoy braised meats, slowly roasted vegetables, soups and stews.
After a long hike in the woods, there is nothing like a hot bowl of soup and some crusty bread to warm you up. The technique I use for making pureed soups is the same, regardless of the ingredients, so in this recipe I will offer up alternatives as we go through the cooking process.
Apple Butternut Soup
This recipe works well with most winter squashes including pumpkin, acorn, turban, buttercup, pepper, etc.
Olive oil or canola oil
1 medium white onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, diced
1 large Butternut Squash (you can substitute almost any root vegetable or squash)
4 large apples (these can be omitted, and replaced with almost any vegetable of your choice)
4 cups or vegetable chicken stock (or vegetable stock)
1 Bay leaf
2 tablespoons Butter
1/3 teaspoon curry powder, or to your taste
1 pinch nutmeg
1 cup whipping cream
Salt and pepper
Note: Roasting the vegetables first gives them a depth and intensity of flavour, however the vegetables can go right into the soup pot, covered with stock, and cooked until tender before pureeing.
1: Cut butternut in half and remove seeds. Place cut side down on a greased baking sheet and bake in a 375 degree preheated oven for 45 minutes, or until tender. Let cool and remove meat and mash with a fork. This technique works for any squash. However if you are using root vegetables, like carrots, you can just peal them, toss them in oil, and roast them for flavour.
2: Peel and slice apples and toss with melted butter. Place in 375 degree preheated oven for 15-20 minutes until they start to caramelize. Let cool. You could also do this step stove top in a hot sauté pan on medium heat.
2: Sauté onion and garlic in oil until transparent, about 5 minutes. Add butternut puree, apples, stock, bay leaf, curry, nutmeg and mix well. Bring to boil, then lower heat to simmer. Simmer for 20 – 30 minutes. Add salt, taste for seasoning and adjust.
3: Remove from heat, add cream and cool until safe to blend. If you have an immersion blender you can do the next step in the pot. Blend in batches in a blender until smooth. Add more water/stock if necessary to achieve the desired consistency. If you are looking for a silky texture, you can pass the soup through a fine sieve before re-heating until warmed through. Serve with warm crusty bread or croutons. You could garnish with toasted nuts or pepitas, chopped herbs, or a dollop of sour cream.
Other variations on this recipe could include:
Sweet potato, tomato with paprika – garnish with pine nuts or pepitas
Carrot & Lentil with curry powder – garnish with yogurt dollop
Potato & Leek with Thyme & Cream – garnish with croutons
The possibilities are endless!