Thursday, 13 March 2014


The sea we see is really an estuary, leading oil tankers and fishing boats into the busy beating heart of Scotland and then out again. We venture outside to count boats on cold days and warm days. And though we visit the beach in all weathers, we like it best in spring and autumn. The crowds only descend from the city in the height of summer, so at this quiet time of year when the days are finally getting longer, we own the sea and the shore and the wilderness of buckthorn with its secret passages and hidey holes.

Spring arrived for three days this week, turning the water azure; today it has sloped away leaving behind blossom, promises and a greyish chill. 

No matter. I have sunshine in a bowl . . . restorative, cheery, Carrot, Squash and Coconut Soup with a hefty kick of ginger and a squeeze of orange.

This is an adapted version of Rory O’Connell’s lovely Carrot, Coconut and Lemongrass Soup from Master It, a tome that is fast replacing Good Housekeeping as my go-to book for delicious, best basics that I know I’ll still be serving when the kids are too old to want to come boat-counting with me.

Carrot, Squash and Coconut Soup

Makes around 1.2 litres

40g butter

2 onions, finely chopped

1 large clove garlic, finely chopped

4 medium carrots, peeled and finely sliced

1 small butternut squash, peeled, fibres and seeds removed, diced

4cm finger root ginger, peeled and finely chopped

Pinch of sugar

Salt and pepper

800ml chicken stock

400ml can coconut milk

Juice of 1 mandarin orange

In a large, heavy-based casserole pan, melt the butter, then add the onions, garlic, ginger, carrots and butternut squash. Stir well to coat, then add a pinch of sugar, salt and pepper. Put a lid on and let it all cook away gently on a low heat for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure the veg doesn't stick.

Pour in the chicken stock, bring to a strong simmer, then put the lid back on, turn the heat back down low and let everything quietly bubble away for 30 or 40 minutes.

When the carrots and butternut squash give easily under a sharp knife, they are done. Take off the heat and whizz smooth with a stick blender taking care not to splatter hot purée everywhere (she says, ruefully).

Add the orange juice.

Warm the coconut milk in a separate pan and then add to the rest.

If you want to get fancy, scatter a handful of toasted walnuts over the top. Walnuts and butternut squash are lovely together.

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