Butternut Soup with Pears and Chestnuts
There’s something comforting about a large pot of soup bubbling away on the stove. The sweet creaminess of butternut squash and the bright, orangey yellow colour of this soup is enough to lift the spirits on a dank autumn afternoon. Squash or pumpkin pairs beautifully with spiced salami or chorizo, or salty smoked bacon, but add some cooked woodsy chestnuts and sweet tender pears and the combination really sings.
1 large onion, diced
1 small leek, diced
1 celery stick, diced
1 carrot, peeled and diced
2 garlic cloves, chopped
5 slices of pancetta, diced
2 large sprigs of thyme
2 tablespoons olive oil
25g unsalted butter
1 medium butternut squash
3 ripe Williams or Conference pears
150g cooked, peeled chestnuts
800ml hot chicken stock, plus extra if needed
100ml double cream
150g Hungarian Mangalica spiced salami or chorizo, diced
salt and freshly ground black pepper
Tip the onion, leek, celery, carrot, garlic and pancetta into a large pan. Add one of the thyme sprigs, 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and the butter. Cook over a low–medium heat for about 10 minutes until the veggies are tender but not coloured. While they are cooking, peel, deseed and dice the squash, and peel, quarter, core and dice two of the pears.
Add the squash to the pan with the pears and 100g of the chestnuts and cook for a further 2–3 minutes. Pour in the stock and season well with salt and black pepper, then cover and bring to the boil. Reduce to a gentle simmer and cook for a about 30 minutes until the squash is tender when tested with the point of a knife.
Fish out the thyme sprig and blend the soup using a stick blender until smooth. Add the cream and a little more stock if the soup is on the thick side, then taste for seasoning, adding more salt and pepper as required.
Peel, core and dice the remaining pear and chestnuts. Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a frying pan, add the salami or chorizo and cook until starting to brown. Throw in the pear, chestnuts and leaves from the remaining thyme sprig and cook for a further minute or so until the pear is tender and caramelised.
Ladle the soup into bowls, top with a good spoonful of the pear and salami/chorizo mixture and serve immediately.