Although I find our Masterchef series has become dull and formulaic I really enjoy Masterchef Australia, hosted by Gary Mehigan, George Calombaris and Matt Preston. Although the occasional over-the-top sycophancy of some of the contestants can be a little grating, mostly they are just exhuberant and gung-ho in a way we seldom embrace in the UK but ought to a little more; it’s energising! I like the range of challenges the Masterchef Australia contestants are given; so much more varied than our trio of stints in professional kitchen, random staff canteen and cooking for the judges. I also like the masterclasses given by the presenters and guest experts.
One recent evening, we ploughed through a few episodes stacked up on the DVR, including one featuring a masterclass by Matt Preston. I loved the simplicity of his recipe for “pumpkin soup with a twist”, and we made a further simplified version for lunch the very next day, using the organic butternut squash we had in the fridge.
I particularly liked his idea to garnish the soup with bacon and pepitas (pumpkin seeds) candied in brown sugar. Although I have, in the past, carefully saved the seeds from a squash, washed them clean of all the fruit clinging to them and roasted them in the oven, I decided to skip the pepitas this time. I also simplified the overall recipe quite a bit more, skipping the apples, onions, garlic in the soup and the fried sage leaves on top.
It was ridiculously easy and it was rather good; ideal for those who love sweet-savoury combinations.
Butternut Squash Soup with Candied Bacon
1 butternut squash
1 tub of home-made stock (beef, chicken or vegetable), approximately 1 litre
1 teaspoon mixed spice
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper
150 grams cubed pancetta, lardons or chopped streaky bacon
3 tablespoons Demerara sugar
I’ve updated this recipe, turning the candied bacon into more of a bacon brittle; the caramelised sugar solidifies to a satisfyingly crunchy texture. Please see the updated recipe here.
While the oven preheated to 180 C, we cut the butternut squash into thirds, sprinkled a teaspoon of mixed spice and a couple of tablespoons of olive oil over it and baked in its skin for approximately half an hour.
- In the meantime, we defrosted a tub of home-made beef stock we had in the freezer.
- We fried the pancetta until cooked before adding 3 the brown sugar. We cooked these together for a minute or two until the sugar dissolved and darkened. We realised afterwards that it could have done with a minute or two longer in the pan to add a touch more crunch, and may also have benefited from draining some of the rendered bacon fat before adding the sugar. We poured the candied bacon onto a silicon baking sheet to cool.
- When the squash was roasted, we peeled the skin away and added it to the stock.
- When both were hot we blended the soup till smooth and then seasoned to taste.
- We served the soup with candied bacon and fresh, soft white bread.
With so few ingredients, the quality of the organic produce we used gave the finished dish wonderful flavours.
Kavey Eats was sent a selection of organic produce by Organic UK Food as part of the Organic Naturally Different campaign.