Most of us have a favourite season. Mine is autumn. Ask many of my fellow autumnal devotees what they love, and many will cite the colours. In one sense, I do too, but more from the cook's perspective. Last week the vivid purple of brambles had centre stage. Round about now, magazine editors are adorning their food porn glossy pages with trays of roasted pumpkin and the like.
Not for me. I suspect the rise of the pumpkin stemmed in part from the repetitive strain injuries sustained by those trying to carve turnip lanterns. The soft flesh of the pumpkin represents easier prey. But I find it too sweet - and even a small specimen leaves you with an awful lot of unlovely food to deal with. So both in terms of size and consistency, I prefer its little cousin the butternut squash, the star of today's dish. You could use pumpkin if forced.
It's a soup I've made on a number of occasions, but the last time, I found it a bit cloying with the whole tin of coconut milk. I've suggested you use half, and taste as you go. Once the coconut goes in, be careful not to boil.
1 butternut squash, peeled, deseeded and cut into cubes; 1 onion, peeled and chopped; 2 cloves garlic, crushed or finely chopped; 1 red chilli, finely chopped (I deseed mine, but up to you); 750ml chicken or vegetable stock; ½ - 1 tin of coconut milk; veg oil; s & p.
Soften the onion, chilli and garlic in a little oil with a little s & p. When the onion is softish, add the butternut squash and cook together for a few minutes. Add the stock, and simmer until the squash is tender. Allow it to cool slightly. Blitz either in a liquidiser or with a stick blender. If you're being very particular you could sieve it, but I don't. Add ½ of the tin of coconut milk, and stir well. Decide whether you want the remainder or not. Adjust the seasoning, heat gently and serve.
Some swear by roasting the squash first in a hottish oven. Split the veg in half, scoop out the seeds, oil, season and cook for half an hour cut side up, then turn over for up to another half hour. Keep and eye on it to avoid burning.
Replace the coconut milk with a few tablespoons of crème fraîche, or just leave it out altogether.
Add a couple of carrots to the onion at the sweating stage.
Add a finely chopped or grated thumb of ginger.
Use extra chilli, or add chilli flakes for a greater kick, or replace the chilli with a teaspoon of medium curry powder.
A decade or so ago, not only was Edinburgh's Dalry Road a culinary desert, it was in general terms about as welcoming as the Sahara when your camel has gone lame and you realise you left your water bottle back at the wahdi. Changed days indeed.
The relocation of Rosario Sartore's Locanda de Gusti marked the beginning of the change, one which has brought numerous local eating places in its wake, some of which I intend to review soon.
It also has a variety of good ethnic food shops. But the most exciting find is our discovery of Fruttivendolo at 110A Dalry Road. The word means greengrocer in Italian. Wow! is the only appropriate word. We found it by accident a couple of days ago, when it had been open for only a week. At least a dozen types of tomato, apples and pears of all shapes and sizes and so much more. Being Italian, they also have a great range of Italian cakes and Sicilian cannoli. More details to follow in due course.