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Dynamic Ageing Recipe - Spiced Butternut Squash Soup with Pumpkin Seed Salsa

The squash family is thin on flavour and texture, and I must admit to a weekly wisp of despair at this time of the year when I unpack my organic vegetable box and find yet another pumpkin or butternut nut squash lurking in the bottom, defying me to cudgel my brain and imagination in order to develop a new recipe. But there is a solution: bake it in the oven until soft, and its wishy washy flavour will concentrate to a honeyed sweetness. This same sweetness cries out for sharp, acidic partners like limes, yoghurt and tomatoes and the bold assertive heat of a fiery chilli, along with a dash of smokiness from chipotle or smoked paprika.

When buying butternut squash, choose one with a long, fat neck as this is where the flesh is, while the bulbous part is fibrous and full of seeds.


Serves 4

1 large butternut squash, about 1.5 kg

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

150 g onions, peeled and coarsely chopped

1 tsp bouillon powder such as Steenbergs

100 g coconut cream (not milk)

1 x 400g tin black beans, rinsed and drained

Fresh lemon juice

¼ tsp chipotle chilli powder or ½ tsp smoked paprika, or to taste – available at some supermarkets or from Steenbergs or Steenbergs

300 ml natural coconut yoghurt, well seasoned

Fine sea or Himalayan salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the salsa:-

1 tsp extra virgin olive oil

20 g hulled pumpkin seeds

50 g red onions, peeled and finely chopped

1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed

1 red and 1 green chilli, deseeded and finely sliced

250 g cherry tomatoes, quartered – a mixture of red and yellow looks pretty

3 tbsp olive oil

10 g fresh coriander/cilantro, coarsely chopped

Fine sea or Himalayan salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 200oC/400oF/gas 6/fan oven 180oC. Place the squash in a roasting tin, rub the skin with 1 tbsp of olive oil, season well and roast in the oven until it is soft, about 45 minutes to one hour – give it a gentle squeeze to test it, it should yield easily.

While the squash is cooking, heat 1 tbsp of olive oil in a medium saucepan and add the onions. Cook, stirring occasionally, until they start to brown, about 20 minutes.

When the squash is ready, transfer it to the onion saucepan and pour in enough water to cover. Bring to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes.

Cool slightly before puréeing in a food processor or blender until smooth and velvety. Return the soup to the saucepan and add the bouillon powder, enough water to make it the consistency of double cream, and the coconut cream. Bring to the boil before adding the beans. Check the seasoning and squeeze in some lemon juice if the flavour is at all cloying, but only enough to cut the sweetness as the salsa and yoghurt will add more acidity and one of this soup’s many charms is the sweet and sharp contrast.

Make the salsa while the soup is cooking. Heat 1 tsp of olive oil in a small heavy frying pan. Add the pumpkin seeds and some salt, and cook over medium heat, stirring often, until the seeds start to pop and smell nutty. Be careful not to overcook them as they will go bitter. Remove from the heat and cool.

Mix the remaining ingredients for the salsa gently in a bowl. Add the pumpkin seeds and some seasoning just before serving as salt makes tomatoes watery.

Ladle the soup into four warm bowls and add a good spoonful of salsa and some dollops of yoghurt.

Serve immediately, adding more salsa and yoghurt to the soup as you eat it.

As mentioned above, flavour is not a squash’s forte, but it is definitely nutrient-rich, as is the pumpkin seed salsa. The bright orange colour is a give-away: lots and lots of beta-carotene which converts to Vitamin A, supporting the immune system; also rich in Vitamin C; its lutein and zeaxanthin content will strengthen your eyesight; and the fibre will aid your digestive system. Tomatoes? Vitamin C for collagen production among countless other talents; lycopene to support prostate health; potassium for heart health; lutein and beta-carotene for strong eyesight; folic acid, choline, magnesium, potassium and calcium. Pumpkin seeds are full of healthy fats including the very valuable Omega-EFAs, magnesium, potassium, calcium, zinc, Vitamin E, and very importantly, tryptophan to aid regenerative sleep. What a powerhouse!

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