Simple, basic, nourishing, filling. This soup is basically a pottage, a thick soup, though with the addition of more water you can make it more soupy, as it were. Interestingly, the word porridge is derived from pottage. If you like you can add other vegetables, as well as some other form of cooked protein, though you might want to add the protein after puréeing, if you choose to purée.

2 T vegetable oil or butter; or other fat, or a combination
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 – 2 cloves garlic, minced, optional
3 – 4 c (peeled) seeded, and chopped winter squash
1/4 t dried sage or thyme, or 1 t chopped fresh herb
4 – 6 c broth or stock, or water
1 c red lentils, rinsed and drained
salt and pepper, to taste
raw diced or grated root vegetable(s), for garnish, optional

1. Heat oil or melt butter or other fat in a soup pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onions along with a pinch or two of salt and sauté, stirring frequently, for about 8 minutes or so. Add garlic a minute or so before this time.

2. Stir in squash and herb. Stir to coat with the onions, garlic, and oil. Cook for a few minutes. Add the broth, using the lesser amount to begin with, the lentils, and some salt and pepper. Bring to the boil, then reduce heat, cover, and simmer for about 20 minutes or so, until the squash is tender and the lentils have broken down some. If adding some cooked protein, do so about halfway through to allow it to heat through.

3. If you like you can purée the soup, with an immersion blender in the pot or in batches in a blender or food processor. Return the soup to the pot, add any cooked protein, and heat through.

4. If you want a less thick soup, add more of the broth or stock and bring to the simmer. Taste for seasonings, and serve, garnished with some of the diced or grated root vegetable(s).