Its Autumn! Or as I am used to calling it, Fall. Growing up I wasn’t always enamoured with this time of the year, it always meant the end of the summer. Now that I’m older I’ve grown to appreciate this seasons for a multitude of reasons. The colours in the leafs, the crispness in the air that makes for more invigorating walks, the excuse to start indulging in those wintery foods that just aren’t right in the summer.
Last weekend, on a rare break, we went for a walk in the Bedfordshire countryside. England, and indeed all of the British isles, are blessed with many lovely footpaths and walking trails. Sadly, many near to towns tend to get ripped up by developed and replaced by homes and sidewalks (which then get cars parking on them because the developer didn’t both to plan for enough car parking spaces). So we decided to venture to the outskirts of the little market town of Ampthill.
Ampthill is a posh town, it has money. We like to drive through it, get our hair cut there and visit the wine merchant on occasion. However, we’d never be able to buy a house there. We simply don’t own nice enough cars to fit in.
So we went for a nice long walk, through a series of farmers fields. The sun was shining, the air was cool, it was great morning. Coming back into Ampthill, I was in for a surprise. Normally I’m not in the town on Saturday morning, but low and behold there was a market stall in the town square selling local fruit and veg. I mean picked that morning, the dirt still fresh local. Sadly, this is a rare sight in more parts of the UK. When you see signs that say ‘market’ it is usually traders selling stuff they bought en-mass from Spitalfields. If you see ‘farmers market’ it is usually code for every person and their dog selling their own ‘unique’ jam or chutney. Don’t get me wrong, the British make great chutneys, but they all become a bit samey after awhile.
So, I had to act fast. Quickly I scooped up some carrots, turnips, celeriac, a squash and bunch of apples. I had to be stopped buying even more, by the responsible one. There was method to my madness however, some soup.
Years ago, my father got the idea of making mashed squash with apple, and I enjoyed it. It was great with a side of roasted ham. So I thought, what about embracing this autumnal weather and make a soup with this idea. Which is where I came up with apple squash crunch soup!
First, I chopped the apples, with the carrots (skin on), a small parsnip and the squash into cubes. Starting with a deep pot, I sautéed some garlic, onion and the carrots until the onion was translucent. I added the squash and then the apple. Finally I added some thyme and bay leaf and chicken stock. Left the whole thing to slowly boil for the next hour and blitzed. It was actually pretty simple.
To add some more elements to the soup, I remembered an idea I saw from a Australian magazine. They added some granola and Parma ham to the top of the soup. So I went with it. I combined some pumpkin seeds with quinoa and a whisked egg white and a tablespoon of maple syrup. Chucked it in the oven for a few minutes until nice and toasty. Parma ham, while tasty, is frankly expensive and isn’t exactly local to my area (I know, neither is Quinoa…) so I took some good’ol pieces of back bacon and press baked them so they turned into bacon shards.
To assembly I used a hand blender to blitz the soup, until it was a lovely and smooth. In a bowl it went with a bit of the granola and bacon on top. Every bite is like a bite of the season, you get the freshness of the vegetables and herbs, the crunch of the granola and the lovely saltiness of the bacon. Just an excellent way to finish the day.
- 1 large butternut squash - cubed
- 3 apples go for more tart apples, like granny smith
- 2 large carrots - chopped
- 1 large onion - fine chopped
- 3 stripes of back bacon
- 2 sprigs of thyme
- 2 bay leafs
- 1 egg white
- 1 tbs maple syrup
- 1/2 cup oats
- 1 cup pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds
- 1 cup quinoa
- 2 sprigs of chives
- 1 tbs olive oil
- Place the oil in a large stock pot, and lightly sauté the onion and carrots until the onions are translucent. Add the cubed squash, apple and thyme and bay leaf. Cook until the apples start to break down slightly and add the chicken stock. Simmer for an hour or until the squash and apple mush easily when pressed with a fork.
- Meanwhile, whisk the egg white until fluffy and add in the maple syrup. Add the oats, seeds and quinoa and mix together. Spread out on a baking sheet and bake at 180C for 15min. Cool and crumble.
- Between two sheets of parchment, place the pieces of bacon. Sandwich them, and place on a baking sheet with a weight on top. Place in the same oven as the seed mix, but bake for 20min. When finished, take the bacon out and slice into shards.
- When ready to serve, use a hand blender to blitz the soup until silky smooth. Put into bowls, top with the granola and bacon. A few chives on the top and enjoy!