Friday, November 23, 2007

Butternut Squash, Chestnut and Pancetta Soup

I recently came across a Jamie Oliver recipe called 'Pumpkin Soup' and got excited: I'd never used pumpkins for anything but roasted seeds, pies, and jack-o-lanterns and was curious about what a soup would taste like. Of course, to my mild disappointment, the British pumpkin is, apparently, nothing else but what we call squash over here. Luckily though, it's exactly the right time for butternut squash and it's such an awesome fall vegetable that we thought we'd give it a try.

I think I like butternut squash so much, in part, because it's only really available for such a short time in the fall. We're so used to eating pineapples shipped halfway around the world in the middle of December that we forget the subtle pleasures of eating seasonally and I guess squash is an example of that. So here is this amazing soup (who would have thought it would take a brit to showcase such a thoroughly North-American vegetable?). The squash is roasted beforehand, not cooked in the broth as I've seen it done before, and I think that helps the soup keep a little texture. The roasted seeds on top are a nice touch too. The only question left to ask, I suppose, is what do the British call pumpkin?


Recipe (adapted from Jamie Oliver)
1 butternut squash
1 tbsp coriander seeds
1.5 tbsp olive oil
5 slices pancetta, cut into ½ inch (1 centimetre) pieces
1 bunch fresh sage leaves
150g roasted chestnuts (about 1 1/3 cup)
1 shallot, finely chopped
3 cups chicken stock
2 tbsp sour cream or yogurt

Cut the squash in half and remove the seeds, reserving these for later. Using your pestle and mortar, bash up the coriander until fine and sprinkle over the squash. Drizzle with a little oil and roast in a hot oven for at 400 degrees F (200 degrees C / Gas 6 ) until nice and soft. This should take about 60 minutes, but test the squash with a fork: If some parts of the squash refuse to soften up, just leave them behind. Scoop out the pieces into a bowl.

Heat a little oil in a large pan and fry the pancetta with half the sage leaves. Add the chestnuts and the onion and fry gently for about 15 minutes. Add in the squash, cover with the stock and bring to the boil. Remove the mixture and blend until smooth, then pour back into the pan.

Take the rest of the sage leaves and the reserved squash seeds and fry them in a little oil until crisp. Keep a couple whole sage leaves and fry them until they're crisp to garnish. To serve, spoon a little sour cream on top of the soup, sprinkle with a little of the crisp sage and seeds, and finish with a good drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

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