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Brrr…. I think today must have been the coldest day so far this winter.  I just can’t seem to get warm.  This calls for a nice hot pot of soup!  A delicious soup that will warm the bones.  A warm bowl of  soup on a hot winter’s day is like a hug from heaven, don’t you think?

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I just love thick vegetable soups.  They tick all the boxes for me.  They’re smooth and silky.   Rich without being high in fat and calories and they’re delicious . . .  I think they are at any rate.

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I especially love this fabulous soup made with butternut squash.  I think butternut squash is my favourite of all the winter squashes.  It has a natural sweetness and beautiful texture.   I love it roasted and mashed  . . . and I adore it in soups.

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This soup has butternut squash  (of course) and onion  . . .  and a bit of a kick from crushed lazy chillies and some cayenne.  You can adjust the amount to your own tastes.  I tend to use a lesser amount rather than a larger amount.  I don’t like my food to be too spicy.  There is also garlic and a bit of sherry.   A few tablespoons of cream add some richness without adding too much fat or calories.

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I like to add a little bit of a crunch with some tasty toasty cheese croutes on top  . . .  with a few pumpkin seeds for additional texture and colour.  All in all . . . this is a fabulous soup that I hope you will want to try and enjoy!

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*Siced Butternut Soup*
Cheese and Pumpkin Seed Croutes

Serves 4

So simple and yet it tastes as if you worked really hard on it.  The hardest part is peeling and chopping the butternut squash!  

50g butter (2 TBS)

1kg of butternut squash, peeled, deseeded and chopped (2.2 pounds)

1 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped

1 clove of garlic, peeled and finely chopped

2 TBS sherry

900ml of chicken or vegetable stock (3 3/4 cups)

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
salt to taste

2 bay leaves

1/2 tsp lazy chilies

2 TBS double cream 

For the croutes:
1 medium sized French baguette, sliced
115g softened butter (1/2 cup)
1 small clove of garlic, minced
1 TBS parsley flakes
4 TBS grated strong cheddar cheese
4 TBS coarsely grated Parmesan Cheese
a handful of toasted pumpkin seeds 
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Heat the butter in a large heavy based saucepan.  Add the onion and cook, stirring often, for about 5 minutes to soften without browning.  Add the garlic and squash and cook for a few minutes longer until quite fragrant, again without browning.   Add the stock, sherry, cayenne pepper, salt, chilies,  and bay leaves.  Bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer and allow to simmer for 15 to 20 minutes until the squash is very tender. 

Remove the bay leaves and discard.  Blend the soup, either using an immersion blender or a regular blender until smooth.  Taste and adjust seasoning as desired.  Stir in the cream.  

Make the croutes while the soup is cooking.  Cut the bread into 1 inch thick slices.  Toast them on both sides under the grill.  Cream together the cheeses, butter and parsley flakes.   Spread an equal amount of this onto each slice of bread.  Sprinkle with a few toasted pumpkin seeds and then pop back under the grill until golden and bubbling.

Divide amongst 4 heated bowls and top each with a few croutes.  Pass the remainder at the table.

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