This soup is super easy to make because the results are just as good with canned soup. The time-consuming part is the walnuts, but it is worth it when you see your guests' reactions.
2 Tbsp margarine
1 1/2 cups sliced leeks, white parts only
1 Tbsp minced garlic
6 cups butternut squash, peeled and cubed
3 cups apples, peeled and cubed
Spice mixture (roughly): ½ tsp fennel, ¼ tsp coriander, ¼ tsp pepper, ½ tsp chili powder, ¼ tsp kosher salt, ¼ tsp cinnamon, dash cayenne powder
3 cans condensed Chicken Soup + 3 cans water (or 6 cups homemade broth)
1 cup chopped Spiced Candied Walnuts, recipe follows
1. Melt the margarine in a large pot over medium heat. Add the leeks and cook until slightly softened (about 2 minutes). Add the garlic and sauté briefly.
2. Add the squash and apples. Cook over high heat, stirring constantly, until the vegetables begin to caramelize (about 5 minutes).
3. Stir in the spice mixture and cook about 1 minute.
4. Add the chicken soup, bring to a simmer, and partially cover. Simmer over medium-low heat and cook until the squash and apples are tender (about 40 minutes).
5. Blend until smooth. An immersion blender is perfect, but transfer to blender if you don’t have one.
6. Before serving, warm it up and add a few candied walnuts.
Spiced Candied Walnuts:
4 cups walnut halves
1 cup confectioners' sugar, sifted
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper (or 1/4 tsp. if you don't want such a kick)
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1. In a large skillet, heat about 1-inch of oil to 350 degrees F.
2. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add walnuts and blanch for 30 seconds. Drain nuts and immediately toss with confectioners' sugar. Keep mixing until the sugar is melted.
3. Fry nuts a few at a time until medium brown (no more than 1 minute each batch). Spread on an unlined baking sheet.
4. In a small bowl, stir together cayenne, cinnamon, a pinch of salt, and the pepper.
5. Mix the still-warm nuts with the spices, but don't just dump it all together. Add about half the spices, taste it, and then keep adding until it's just right. Cool completely and cover the bowl.