Butternut squash soup with saffron cream

Ingredients to serve 6

For the soup

50g unsalted butter
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
1 celery heart, trimmed and sliced
2 leeks, trimmed and sliced
3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
2kg butternut squash, skin and seeds removed, cut into chunks
800ml strong turkey or other poultry stock
sea salt, white pepper
juice of half a lemon

For the saffron cream

approx 20 saffron filaments, ground and blended with 1 teaspoon boiling water
100g crème fraîche

For the scallops

12 plump scallops
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
a squeeze of lemon juice
coarsely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Melt the butter in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Add the onion, celery and leeks and cook gently for about 10 minutes, until glossy, softened and just starting to colour. Stir occasionally and add the garlic shortly before the end. Add the squash and cook for a few minutes longer, stirring now and again, then add the chicken stock and press the vegetables down – they may not be completely covered. Season with plenty of salt and a little pepper, bring to the boil, cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Purée the soup in batches in a liquidiser, then stir in the lemon juice and taste for seasoning. You should have a thick, silky orange soup.

Blend the saffron infusion with the crème fraîche and a little salt in a bowl. To prepare the scallops, pull the corals away from the white meat, removing the surrounding girdle and the white gristle at the same time. Cut off and reserve the corals and slice the meat into discs. Toss these in a bowl with the olive oil and some seasoning. Heat a large non-stick frying pan over a high heat, and briefly sear about a third of the scallops at a time until lightly caramelised, about 30 seconds each side. Once they are all cooked squeeze over a little lemon juice. Serve the hot soup with a little of the saffron cream spooned over, some of the scallops and a sprinkling of parsley.

From 'Gorgeous Christmas' by Annie Bell (Kyle Cathie, £14.99)

Sommelier's choice

Sancerres Les Ruette 2008, France

A modern, youthful Sancerre with plenty of rich lemon flavour too – a great combination.

Marks & Spencer, £10.99, Marksandspencer.com

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