ROASTED PUMPKIN AND BACON SOUP
700 - 800 g pumpkin or butternut squash *) cut in large chunks deseeded, not peeled
olive oil or butter
150 - 170 g smoked streaky bacon thinly sliced
3 - 5 garlic cloves or 1 single clove garlic
about ½ small red chilli
about 1 tbsp Canadian maple syrup
(pinch of ground cinnamon, nutmeg or cloves)
Place the pumpkin pieces snugly in one layer in a roasting tin. Spray the pieces with oil or dot with butter and sprinkle some salt and pepper on top.
Roast the pumpkin at 200 °C until the pieces are thoroughly tender, almost mushy. This may take anything between 20 to 50 minutes.
Set the pumpkin aside until cool enough to handle.
Using a metal spoon, scrape the soft pumpkin flesh into a bowl or plate, leaving the peel behind.
Meanwhile, take three or four rashers of bacon and finely chop them. Fry the rest of the bacon slices until crisp, either in a skillet or in oven spread on a rack placed over an oven pan to catch the drippings (150 °C/20 - 25 minutes).
Drain the slices on kitchen towels, then crumble or chop them into bits.
Cut the onion in half lengthwise, then cut the halves in thin strips lengthwise.
On low heat, sauté the chopped bacon in a saucepan until some fat is rendered. Add the onion and the minced or pressed garlic. Raise the heat and stir until the onion is translucent.
Add the pumpkin and the finely chopped, deseeded chilli. Pour in boiling hot chicken stock enough to cover the ingredients.
Bring to the boil and let simmer for about ten minutes. Take the pan off the heat and puree the soup, eg using a hand blender.
Return the pan to the stove and add some cream. Reheat the soup and season with some maple syrup (and a tiny pinch of cinnamon, nutmeg, paprika powder/smoked paprika powder, roasted, powdered cumin, cayenne pepper or chilli powder, or any other spice you may like).
Add some more chicken stock, if the soup seems too thick.
Serve the soup in bowls, sprinkled with bits of the crumbled bacon.
*) When in contact with skin, some squash varieties (eg butternut, acorn) are known to cause allergic dermatitis in some individuals, so it is advisable to use protective gloves when handling and cutting the fruit.
In picture on right: butternut squash.
Recipe source: adapted from "Spiced pumpkin soup with bacon" by Nigel Slater/Observer Food Monthly, December/2004.