Monday, October 12, 2009

I love Jamie Oliver and his Butternut Squash Soup

Let me be clear about one thing. It is not that I am in love with Jamie Oliver, the man himself. His wife can have him. But, I am absolutely crazy about his food. Anything that man makes, I want to devour.

And, what better way to celebrate this kind of love than investing in two new Jamie Oliver cookbooks: Jamie at Home and Cook with Jamie?

Armed with a Jamie Oliver-ese cipher,
I was ready to try my first recipe from Jamie at Home: 'Superb Squash Soup'. And did you look at it? How could anything that gorgeous not be delicious?

One of the things I like most about Mr. Oliver's food is the depth of flavor he incorporates in his recipes. He adds lots of herbs, chillis, oils, and so forth to enhance the basic ingredients. But no flavor is overwheling. They all marry together brilliantly.

Take this soup, for instance. You start by frying sage leaves in oil.
You reserve those sage leaves for garnish and then you use that sage-flavored oil as the base of your soup. Come on now!

And, instead of using just onions, carrots, celery, and garlic as your soup base, he has you add rosemary and a red chilli. Now, neither the rosemary or the chilli really hit you over the head at the end, but they just enrich the overall flavor. And it is this additional flavor that makes this soup 'superb'.
Now onto making this soup. You first soften your base vegetables over medium heat for about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, prep your lovely butternut squash. Bonus: you can just leave the skin on since you are simmering it for so long.
Once your vegetables are soft, add your butternut squash to the pot.
Also add the stock.
Bring that to a simmer and simmer for about 30 minutes, until everything is tender. Pull it off the heat, pull out your immersion blender, and as Mr. Oliver says "whiz it up."
And, you are left with this absolutely stunning pot of soup.
Ladle the soup into a bowl.
Remember these fried sage leaves?
Use them as a garnish, along with a little Parmesan. To remind you how gorgeous this is:
Warning: at the end, you may want to lick the bowl.
Again, to quote Mr. Oliver, "Happy Days"!

Super squash soup (from Jamie at Home)
serves 8

Olive oil
16 fresh sage leaves*
2 red onions, peeled and chopped
2 sticks of celery, trimmed and chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
2 sprigs of fresh rosemary, leaves picked
1 fresh red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 1/4 pounds butternut squash, onion squash, or musque de Provence, halved, deseeded, and cut into chunks
2 quarts low-sodium chicken or vegetable stock
extra virgin olive oil

Put a very large sauce pan on a medium heat and pour in a couple of glugs of olive oil.** Add the sage leaves and fry for around 30 seconds or until dark green and crisp. Quickly remove them with a slotted spoon to a bowl lined with paper towels-- you will use these for garnish. In the pan you'll be left with a beautifully flavored oil (yes, the recipe actually says this), so put it back on the heat and throw in your onion, celery, carrot, garlic, rosemary, chilli, and a good pinch of salt and pepper. Cook gently for about 10 minutes until the vegetables are sweet and soft. Add the squash and the stock to the pan, bring to a boil and simmer for around half an hour.

When the squash is soft and cooked through, whiz the soup with an immersion blender or pour it into a standard blender and pulse until you have a smooth puree. Most importantly, remember to taste and season until its perfect.

Divide soup between bowls and sprinkle with a few of your crispy sage leaves and drizzle with a swirl of good-quality extra virgin olive oil.

*I only fried 4 leaves because I only need one portion that night.
**1 glug = 2 Tablespoons

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