I’m half British, so it’s only reasonable to bring up the weather from time to time. You may have heard about the storm that battered Scotland and northern England yesterday (obviously if you live in Scotland or northern England, you’ll be well aware of it). Unofficially christened “Hurricane Bawbag” on Twitter – it became a trending topic, probably confusing most of the rest of the world, and a Twitter account, facebook page and Wikipedia entry were all quickly established for it – the storm was responsible for a lot of travel disruption and general chaos (something like ⅔ of schools in Scotland didn’t open or closed early). I was supposed to go up to St Andrews for the afternoon, and because I’m stupidly stubborn I decided that I would attempt it anyway, despite the red weather warnings issued (did I mention that I’m stubborn?). I didn’t get any further than Edinburgh Bus Station though – thanks to gusts reaching up to 135 km/h, all bridges into Fife were closed and all the buses were cancelled. So I’m going up this afternoon instead. Hopefully I’ll be en route when this post is published… (Fingers crossed!)
Now, cold, wet, windy and just generally thoroughly miserable weather is usually soup weather… Last month’s Random Recipe challenge was supposed to be a soup. The first recipe that I’d randomly picked was for pear, pancetta and Stilton soup, which sounded intriguing and I couldn’t wait to try it… Until I realised that it’s really not vegetarian, which was one of the stipulations of the challenge. Of course, I could have just removed the pancetta and used vegetable stock instead of chicken stock in order to rectify that, but it seemed wrong to just completely remove one of the title ingredients. So I bookmarked the recipe and randomly picked a different one for the challenge. Usually when I bookmark something, I forget about it more or less immediately and then happen across it several months later when none of the ingredients are in season anymore, but I was so intrigued by this combination that I actually remembered about it!
It turned out to be absolutely delicious!! It’s definitely a bit unusual, and if you don’t like sweet and savoury flavours in the same dish then this probably isn’t for you, but against my expectations, the flavours work perfectly. The saltiness of the pancetta and the Stilton perfectly counterbalance the sweetness of the pears. I’m glad I didn’t remove the pancetta to make it vegetarian because I’m not sure how well the soup would work without that dimension of flavour. Certainly the pancetta would have to be substituted for something equally strong and salty in taste, but I’m not really sure what exactly would fit the bill. Non-vegetarians though, I certainly recommend trying this out. I think I might trot it out at my next dinner party (although due to the living-at-home situation, combined with the only-knowing-two-people-in-Edinburgh situation, I’m unlikely to be having a dinner party any time soon…!), depending on whether my guests are into the sweet and savoury combination or not.
Pear, pancetta & Stilton soup
Recipe adapted from Food 52
This soup is very much a balance of sweet and savoury. The strong salty flavours of the pancetta and Stilton counteract the sweetness of the pears. Half of the pancetta that I used was smoked and it did add a lovely subtle flavour to the soup – if you can get some, I’d definitely recommend using it. My mum thought she might prefer the Stilton to be blended into the soup, but I preferred it sprinkled over the top as in the recipe – I think that it just comes down to a matter of preference, but adding the Stilton at the end does give some control of the strength of the flavour if somebody isn’t too keen on it.
2 garlic cloves
225g potatoes (this was 1 large potato)
160g pancetta (half of it was oak-smoked pancetta)
1 tbsp honey
1 tsp dried thyme
½ tsp ground nutmeg
700 ml chicken stock
120 ml crème fraîche
1. Chop the onions and set aside. Finely chop the garlic clove and set aside with the cubed potatoes and sliced carrot. Peel, core and roughly cube the pears and set aside.
2. Fry the pancetta in a large pot. Once crispy, remove to a plate lined with a paper towel (to allow to drain) using a slotted spoon.
3. Remove all but 1 tbsp of fat from the pot (don’t pour it down the sink – the fat may solidify and block your sink). Add the butter and return to the heat. Once the butter has melted, add the onion and sweat for about 10 mins over a medium-low heat, stirring occasionally until softened but not browned. Add the garlic, potato and carrot and cover. Cook for a further 10 mins, stirring occasionally.
4. Add the honey, pear, thyme, nutmeg and a good pinch of salt, stirring well to coat the pears in the honey and spices. Cook for 5 mins, stirring frequently. Add the chicken stock, bring to the boil and turn the heat down to low. Cover and simmer for about 15 mins until the potatoes and pears are cooked.
5. Blend the soup until smooth and velvety, either in batches in a blender or using an immersion blender. Return to the pot if necessary, and stir in the crème fraîche. Add salt and pepper to taste (I found the pepper to be a largely unnecessary addition).
6. Ladle the soup into bowls and serve sprinkled with the pancetta and crumbled Stilton.