I’ve just spent the last few hours greedily devouring the food porn and travel tales in Anthony Bourdain’s round-the-world eating book, No Reservations. It makes me want to eat coconut water-basted roast pig in Indonesia, steamed shark’s head in Singapore, fois gras burger in Montreal and white clam pizza in Seattle (pictured above behind the soup). Hell, I’d even consider testicle terrine in Iceland, raw seal in Northern Canada, and ‘sand-, fur-, and crap-laden warthog’ in Namibia to be able to eat and travel like he does, although I could do without the nasty details of the hospital visit resulting from getting a little too friendly with the lower intestines of said warthog.
Since I can only vicariously live out my gluttonous international foodie fantasies through Bourdain’s book (at least for the evening) I consoled myself with soup. It’s become perfect soup weather in London, so I finally stopped longing for my lovely red immersion blender back in San Francisco and buckled down and bought another one. Can’t do soup without it!
With delicata squash and a big bulb of fennel in last week’s veg bag, I had the basics of a flavorful autumn soup based on an amazing roasted pumpkin soup recipe with cinnamon and chilis from the cookbook of the fabulous Moro Restaurant on Exmouth Market (so far the best meal I’ve had in London…go eat there now). And then I remembered that I bought a bag of Asian pears on Brick Lane today and decided to include one for an additional sweetness and a texture that is somehow on the positive side of slightly mealy and almost gritty. I roasted half a pear with the squash at first but then decided more was needed and diced another half directly into the boiling soup. It’s probably easiest to just toss it all in at the end along with the potato that I added to thicken the soup. Then go to town with your immersion blender – aka your onomatopoeicallynamed zjzjzjzjzjjjzzher – and your soup goes from ugly lumpiness to smooth and creamy like MAGIC.
Roasted Fennel, Squash, and Asian Pear Soup
What You Need:
1 large bulb of fennel – maybe the size of a softball
1 squash – I had probably about 1 1/2 cups worth of delicata squash but butternut would probably be even more flavorful
about…3 cups chicken stock (no, I didn’t measure and I used a bouillon cube. If only I could have homemade chicken stock on hand at all times. And of course, you can easily make this vegetarian by using veggie stock).
1 Asian pear
a pinch of cinnamon
a sprinkle of chili flakes
salt & pepper
What You Do:
1. Slice the squash in half, place into a roasting pan with a bit of olive oil.
2. While the squash begins to cook, trim the green bits and the base off the fennel bulb and cut into slices. Pull out the roasting pan and add the fennel and more olive oil if necessary (this is probably not the best way to do this, but I find it the most efficient. And that’s that).
3. Start warming a bit of butter in a large pot while slicing an onion. Once the butter warms, sauté the onion on low heat until it becomes golden and translucent. Add the chicken stock to the pot.
4. If the kitchen gods are on your side, the fennel and squash will be ready – soft and delicious, maybe with some little roasty brown bits but not burnt – at exactly the same time. If not, you’ll have to futz around a bit with cooking times. Just do your thing and it will all work out. Add them to the soup.
5. Dice the potato and the pear into little chunks and dump into the pot.
6. Once everything is soft and cooked through, break out the hand blender and zzzzzjzjzjzjzjjjjjjj to your heart’s content. I am way too entertained by this magical appliance.
7. Add the cinnamon and chili and any other spices you like. Spoon into your mouth and do your best to stop before your stomach explodes. I was only barely successful at this endeavor.
We made a version of this last week at Rambling Restaurant with toasted pinenuts, beet reduction, and yogurt sauce. I bet it would also be good with toasted walnuts or a big hunk of crusty peasant bread or potato bread….in fact, this soup would be excellent with lots of things. Possibly even, dare I say it, roast warthog?