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Sunday, 9 May 2010

Roasted Pumpkin Soup with Garlic Croutons

Today I have been to the 'Real Food Festival' at Earl's Court, here in London. It was brilliant! There were more than 400 stalls from small producers aiming to promote local, sustainable ingredients and traditional cooking, growing and breeding methods. I was just in my element and was jumping from a stall to another sampling the products and chatting to the producers, before buying a number of delicacies including Scottish Aberdeen Angus pastrami and sweet cured carpaccio, smoked bacon, Gloucestershire Old Spot sausages, Hundred Dram cheddar, Red Leicester and Mustard biscuits, lemon curd cookies, Somerset bread and a whole jar of sliced black truffle. Goodness me!
One of the things I enjoyed the most was meeting two young producers from Suffolk, who introduced me to the joys of rapeseed oil. Cold pressed and packed with omega 3, it was suggested as the British alternative to olive oil. While olive oil is a key ingredient to me, which I could never go without, I believe that it is often overrated here in the UK, in the sense that too often I see rubbish random, sourced 'god-knows-where-from' olive oils sold for a ridiculous amount of money in supermarkets. I get my olive from Italy, from producers my parents know personally and was therefore intrigued to try a different variety from two farmers whose love and care for their product was so clearly evident. So I bought a bottle, went home and tried immediately by using it in my roasted pumpkin soup. The result was delicious and the rapeseed oil gave the soup a nutty, uplifting edge. You really learn something every day!

PS - I really must mention another super-exciting fact: I watched Giorgio Locatelli making saltimbocca alla romana using English veal, accompanied by wild chanterelle mushrooms and melanzane alla parmigiana. And I got to be the first in line to taste the final dish! Needless to say, it was out of this world!!!

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 butternut squash
  • 1 white onion
  • 1 stick of celery
  • Dried of fresh thyme
  • A handful of chopped parsley
  • A handful of risotto rice
  • Salt and pepper
  • Rapeseed oil
  • Grated parmesan to serve (optional)
For the garlic croutons:
  • Good quality bread, like ciabatta or pain de campagne (ready sliced won't work!)
  • A clove of garlic
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt & pepper

Cut your butternut squash in two, using a sharp, large kitchen knife. Drizzle with rapeseed oil, sprinkle with thyme, salt and pepper and roast it in the oven at 180° C for about 40 minutes.

Let the squash cool down a little, then peel the skin - it will be soft and you should find this process much easier now than when the vegetable is raw. Cut it into chunks and put aside. Chop the onion and celery, add more rapeseed oil to a cast-iron pan and let them soften at low heat. Add the butternut squash and cover with about 700 ml of boiling water.

Let it simmer slowly for 30 minutes, adding a handful of rice after 10 minutes. When blended alongside the rest of the ingredients, the rice will add as a thickening agent and can be used as a healthy alternative to cream. After half an hour, take the pan off the heat and whizz the soup up using a hand-held blender (or transfer to a normal blender). Let it rest.
Now crack on with your garlic croutons. Cut 4 slices of bread and toast it until golden and crunchy. Rub each slice with garlic, drizzle it with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Do this on both sides, then cut each slice in smaller bits, to form your croutons. They are an healthier version of the fried ones, but I promise you there is no compromise on flavour.

Serve your soup with some parsley, a sprinkle of parmesan cheese (if desired) and croutons on top, and more of the latter on the side. Who said that healthy food has to taste bland?


2 comments:

Kate said...

Hello Irene! This is a perfect recipe as Australia is obsessed with pumpkin and its winter here so finally cold enough for soup. I am going to make it tonight and will let you know how it turns out. Great blog!! Loads of love to you and Tom, Kate

Focaccia al Rosmarino said...

Thanks Kate! I am glad you like the blog! How's life in Australia? It must be so exciting, I find that living in a foreign country leads to discovering/learning something new every day. Especially on the food front :-) You are a great cook so you must be having fun experimenting with new ingredients. Take care and let me know how the pumpkin soup turned out!