This golden, velvet-textured soup is very satisfying and perfect for a warm light lunch on a chilly day. Green apple adds a sweet-sour tang to the flavour, with added zip from chili peppers, and the croutons provide a satisfying crunch.
To make the croutons, cut the bread into small cubes, then gently cook in a large, dry, heavy-based pot until golden brown. Remove from the pot.
Put the pepperoni in the pot and fry gently for about 4 minutes until the fat runs off and the pieces are browned. Lift out and drain on paper towel, leaving the fat in the pot. Reserve the pepperoni for garnish.
Add the onion to the pot and fry gently in the pepperoni-flavoured oil for 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until softened.
Stir in the squash or pumpkin, apple, garlic, thyme and chili flakes, cover and leave to cook on a very low heat for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the pumpkin is tender when tested with the point of a knife.
Remove the sprig of thyme and tip the contents of the pot into a food processor or blender. Add about half the stock and process to a smooth purée. (You may need to do this in two batches.) Return to the pot and add the remaining stock. Reheat gently and season to taste. Sprinkle with pepperoni and croutons before serving.
Cook's tips: Freeze the three elements of the meal separately and combine just before serving. If you prefer, a generous dash of chili sauce can be added to the soup instead of the chili flakes.
Variation: For a vegetarian version, replace the chicken stock with vegetable stock and use toasted pumpkin seeds to sprinkle over the soup in place of the pepperoni. You'll also need 1 tablespoon olive oil to fry the onion.
Each serving: 11 g protein, 9 g fat of which 3 g saturates, 22 g carbohydrate, 4 g fibre, 219 Calories