With October coming to a close the cold, wet weather has sneaked in, and shops have filled with pumpkins of all shapes and sizes. Very few of them will end up as jack-o’-lanterns here in Slovakia, only perhaps in Bratislava, Košice and a couple of more cities with small expat communities from the West.
The Slovaks haven’t embraced Halloween with its tradition of dressing up in scary costumes, going trick-or-treating, or partying. In the Slovak calendar, 1st and 2nd November is dedicated to remembering dead relatives, but we prefer to do so in a quiet, serene way.
It’s a time for families to get together, lay flowers on the graves, light candles, then sit down to a comforting family dinner, which is most likely to start with a good, wholesome soup.
Here’s a recipe for one that uses butternut squash and fresh horseradish.
Butternut Squash Soup
- 1 butternut squash (2 kg)
- 4 tablespoons oil
- 1 large onion
- 4 cloves garlic
- a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
- 1 litre water
- salt & black pepper to taste
- 1 teaspoon curry powder
- 2 tablespoons freshly grated horseradish
- 300 g plain yoghurt
- fresh herbs to garnish
- With a sharp knife, halve the butternut squash and cut each half in quarters. Peel and scoop the seeds out with a tablespoon. Cut into cubes of about 2 cm and transfer to a bowl.
- Peel the onion and the garlic. Chop the onion finely.
- Heat the oil in a large cooking pot and throw in the chopped onion. Fry over a medium-high heat until translucent, stirring now and then. Add the diced squash and season with salt and black pepper. Crush the garlic into the mixture, grate the nutmeg and add the curry powder. Stir well and cook for 5 minutes.
- Pour in the water and bring to the boil. Adjust the heat to let the vegetables simmer for 40 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Meanwhile, peel a piece of horseradish. When the squash is soft, turn off the heat and let cool for 10 minutes, then blend with a hand blender. Grate the horseradish into the soup and stir well.
- Ladle the soup into bowls, put 1 – 2 tablespoons of the yoghurt in the middle of each serving, and garnish with fresh herbs. Serve warm or cold.
The soup will keep well in the fridge, so do not discard the leftovers if there are any. They will get even more flavourful the following day.