Sunday, November 14, 2010

The squash continues

The brilliance of using up your fridge leftovers is always a moment of joy. Like rummaging through the wardrobe looking for the first scarf of the winter and coming across the headphones I'd been wondering about for the past six months. Or going to put a new photo in the frame on my desk only to find an old treasure fall out from behind the frame back. 

The pleasance of surprise constantly thrills me and no more than the creation of deliciousness from those half eaten meals and odd cling film parcels which ordinarily would eventually end up as bird food on the window ledge at very best. Soup at times like these has to be your best friend indeed. 

I tend to always have the semblance of a chicken stock of some description lurking somewhere in the freezer but this is habit for me and makes barely a difference to the end result when water does just fine. I had pretty much all the ingredients below after that butternut squash risotto I made the other day, so this was basically as easy as making soup. A little bowl of this lightly spiced soup makes a warming starter for a winter celebration meal.

Butternut squash soup

Serves 4-6

2 tblsp olive oil
Few knobs of butter
2 onions, peeled and chopped
2 bay leaves
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
About 1 litre hot chicken stock
1 heaped tsp mild curry powder
1 large butternut squash, peeled and cut into small pieces
2 apples, cored and sliced with skin on
4-6 thin rashers of pancetta, halved
Small handful of coriander, leaves chopped

Heat a heavy-based pan with the olive oil and butter, then add the onions, bay leaves and a generous pinch of salt and pepper. Stir well, then cover the pan with a lid and cook over a low heat for 5-7 minutes until the onions begin to soften.

Meanwhile, bring the stock to a simmer in another saucepan. Add the curry powder to the onions and stir for another minute. Tip in the squash and add a little more oil to prevent the squash from scorching too quickly. (It will also give the finished soup a velvety texture.) Cook for about 10-12 minutes over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the squash is tender and lightly caramelised. 

Throw in the apples at this stage and pour in just enough hot stock to cover everything and gently simmer for another 5-10 minutes. 

Meanwhile, lay the pancetta in a single layer in a hot non stick frying pan. Fry over medium heat until golden-brown and crisp. Turn over to cook the other side. Drain on kitchen paper and allow to cool slightly.

Fish out and discard the bay leaves. In batches, purée the soup in a food processor or liquidiser until smooth. Return the soup to the pan to reheat. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Ladle the soup into warm bowls and garnish with some chopped coriander and a slice of crispy pancetta on top.