river cottage


Spicy chilli oil deliciously balances the delicate sweetness of an autumnal squash and apple soup. The swirl of glowing orange-red oil makes it look lovely too.

(Serves 4)

About 1kg squash, such as Crown Prince, butternut or kabocha
5–6 garlic cloves (unpeeled), bashed
8–12 sage leaves (optional)
3 tablespoons rapeseed, sunflower or olive oil
About 500g sharp dessert apples, such as Cox or Ashmead’s Kernel
Up to 700ml chicken or vegetable stock
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the chilli oil
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon dried chilli flakes
A good pinch of sweet paprika (smoked paprika if you like)
½ garlic clove, slivered


Preheat the oven to 190°C/Gas 5. Cut the squash into slim wedges and scoop out the seeds. Put the squash wedges into a roasting tray, skin side down. Scatter the bashed garlic cloves over the squash. Roughly crush the sage leaves, if using, in your hands to release the flavour and strew these over too. Trickle the oil all over everything and season well with salt and pepper. Roast for 40 minutes, checking after 25 minutes to see if any of the sage leaves are starting to look charred; if so take them out, but retain.

Meanwhile, to make the chilli oil, heat the extra virgin olive oil, chilli, paprika and garlic gently together in a small saucepan over a low heat for 3–4 minutes. You want the oil barely fizzing – just hot enough to infuse the chilli. Set aside until needed.

Shortly before the roasting time is up, peel, quarter and core the apples. Cut each quarter in half. When the squash has had 40 minutes, remove the sage if you haven’t already and add the apples to the tray. Stir everything around a bit, then return to the oven for a further 20 minutes, by which time the squash should be tender and caramelised and the apples collapsing.

Squeeze the roasted garlic cloves out of their skins into a blender (omit any that are a bit burnt). Add the apples. Scrape the squash flesh away from the skin and add this too. Add any oily juices left in the tray and a few of the sage leaves. Pour about 400ml stock into the blender and blitz to a thick, creamy purée. Add more stock as you like, to achieve a consistency you are happy with. The amount you need will vary depending on the variety of squash: butternut is quite wet, but many other squashes have drier flesh. Transfer to a saucepan and reheat. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve in warm bowls, topped with a generous trickle of the chilli oil. You can include a few fragments of chilli and garlic with the oil if you like, or not; it’s up to you.

This recipe and photo features in “Hugh’s Three Good Things”, published by Bloomsbury Publishing plc , and available from River Cottage

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Born and raised in the Tuscan town of Pistoia. History and Critics of Cinema degree from the University of Florence. Fluent in Italian and English. Extensive work as Director and Editor in USA, UK and Italy. Varied projects in commercials, documentary, music video, and reportage. Also Cinematographer, Animator and lover of all things Italian (well, apart from Berlusconi, that is!). Pier Giorgio Provenzano is the Lexicon’s animator and video editor. Based near Bristol, England, his projects include a short film series for PBS, music videos for Napster, a feature-length documentary for HBO, several animated shorts for Warner Brothers and Toyota, and GrowEatGather, which showcases British farmers and their role in producing good sustainable food.