Jamie at Home with Jamie Oliver
Pumpkin and Squash
Superb Squash Soup with the Best Parmesan Croutons
Butternut Squash Muffins with a Frosty Top
Jamie Oliver could fish an olive out of a jar and I would watch him. I love his enthusiasm, his kitchen skills and his engaging manner. And let’s face it, he’s a young(ish) guy who’s hot. What IS it about English chefs and their jaggedly cut heads of blonde hair? They’re so darned cute.
I was really looking forward to Jamie at Home. I turned on my tape and I was a bit confused. There were no credits. There was no intro. He just launched into a recipe. Finally, I realized that SOMEHOW I had only taped the last 10 minutes!!! That’s a real shame because they seem not to be showing repeats AND for some reason, the duck salad that he supposedly did is not on the website.
What I DID see was pretty fantastic, food-wise, but I have to admit I was a bit confused about the set and his wardrobe. His cutting board looked SO rustic that I was searching for splinters. And it looked like he was in garage with a shelf of dangerous chemicals behind him. His winter hat didn’t help the picture.
But the thing about the British is that they’re much less spoiled than we are. They’re used to being cold and they’re not used to unlimited hot water, gasoline and the other finer things (made in Japan or not) in life that we insist upon. I suppose then that it’s not surprising that they go around wearing all manner of woolly things…on their heads, feet, arms, wherever. And, anyway, the sheep are right in their back gardens, so why not get something from them?
Jamie is in this place - a barn, hut, shed, maybe?...and he hacks away at a gigantic pumpkin, which is actually a musque de Provence squash. He slices it into “big old flabs”, as he calls them.
He chops celery roughly, because he’s going to “whiz it up” with an immersion blender. Then he chops red onions and puts the two in a hot pan with olive oil to start “sweating off.” He adds chopped carrots, garlic, rosemary and salt and chops the squash into smaller pieces.
The squash goes into a pressure cooker with 2 liters of stock and is cooked for 6 minutes. The recipe tells us, if cooking it normally, to simmer it for 30 minutes. The interesting thing is that he doesn’t peel the squash. Perhaps he mentioned this at the beginning of the show, but I know that many folks do NOT peel butternut or spaghetti squash particularly when it’s organic. In the butternut squash muffin recipe on the website, he says it’s not necessary to peel the squash, because it gets soft when cooked.
For croutons to accompany the soup, he cuts a ciabatta into slices. He heats a bit of olive oil in a nonstick pan and adds sage leaves. He cooks them for about 40 seconds until crispy and then lifts out the sage, reserving the nicely flavored oil. He turns the bread slices around the oil, lightly coating both sides. The oil gets discarded.
On his board, Jamie grates Parmesan cheese right over the bread. He pats the cheese into the bread, turns it over and repeats it on the other side. Jamie puts the bread into the dry pan and cooks it for one minute on each side until golden brown, “It’s like croutons with a bit of an attitude, you know?”
The squash is done and he releases the steam from the pressure cooker and removes the lid. The squash is really mushified, so the skin must have completely disintegrated in the pressure cooker. If I were cooking it conventionally, I would remove the skin.
Jamie purées the soup with an immersion blender and tastes it. “Needs work.” He adds salt and pepper and tastes it again. “Tiny, tiny little bit more.” He adds more pepper and, now, he’s pleased. I’M pleased that he showed us that and didn’t pretend that it was perfect right out of the pot.
Jamie presses one crouton (it’s really more of a croûte than a crouton) into the bottom of a soup bowl and another one at an angle. He ladles the soup over. He tells us that people are going to go crazy for those “croutons”, “so you better make double”.
He adds a final garnish of sage leaves and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Just beautiful. Maybe the funny hat and odd surroundings don't matter when the food is this good.