The apple and sage contrast beautifully with the naturally sweet butternut squash. This makes quite a small amount, but don’t be tempted to increase it – soup can be quite filling as a starter, and you don’t want to spoil appetites for the courses to come.
1 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, chopped
1 butternut squash, about 1kg/2lb 4oz, peeled, deseeded and chopped
3 tbsp Madeira or dry Sherry
500ml gluten-free vegetable stock, plus a little extra if necessary
1 tsp chopped sage, plus 20 small leaves, cleaned and dried
sunflower oil, for frying
FOR THE APPLE CROUTONS
1 tbsp olive oil
1 large eating apple, peeled, cored and diced
a few pinches of golden caster sugar
Heat the oil in a large pan, add the onion and fry for 5 mins. Add the garlic and squash, and cook for 5 mins more. Pour in the Madeira and stock, stir in the chopped sage, then cover and simmer for 20 mins until the squash is tender.
Blitz with a hand blender or in a food processor until completely smooth. Allow to cool in the pan, then chill until ready to serve. Will keep for 2 days or freeze for 3 months. To make the crispy sage, heat some oil (a depth of about 2cm) in a small pan, then drop in the sage leaves until they are crisp – you will need to do this in batches. Drain on kitchen paper. Will keep for several hours.
Just before serving, reheat the soup in a pan. The texture should be quite thick and velvety, but thin it with a little stock if it is too thick.
For the apple croutons, heat the oil in a large pan, add the apple and fry until starting to soften. Sprinkle with the sugar and stir until lightly caramelised.
To serve, ladle the soup into small bowls and top with the apple, sage and a grinding of black pepper.