In the kitchen
There’s something yummy cooking up this week.
Some of the happiest days of my life were spent learning to cook at Academy Canada. The instructor was an impeccable chef named Bernie-Anne Ezekiel and on top of her funny, friendly and uplifting personality she was great in that she invested attention and time in her students, doing her best to help cultivate their unique talents in the kitchen... and she herself too had a knack for finding them.
I remember first impressing her by baking an Italian artisan bread known as focaccia; a delicious bread similar in texture to pizza and flavoured with olives and rosemary. While I didn’t quite enjoy baking at the time — preferring instead the manlier cooking applications to impress a girl I had a slight crush on — she insisted that I practice with it as much as possible, having a hunch that I would become the star baker for the class.
In spite of my mild allergy to activating yeast — which I kept secret because I was one of those typical guys who loved to pretend they had no such weaknesses — I spent a great deal of time practicing breads at home.
They were often devoured by my family with annoying enthusiasm once out of the oven but I was never at all satisfied with their end results.
Eventually, I gave up on the artisan breads, much to my instructor’s chagrin, feeling that it was not at all fun to bake anymore. My excuse at the time was that I wasn’t feeling challenged enough. Feel free to roll your eyes at that. So Bernie-Ann then suggested I practice creating different kinds of pureed soups.
Soups were never my strong suit. Even now as an experienced chef I shy away from creating more rustic or traditional Newfoundland soups for the restaurant where I practice my craft, preferring to leave them to our older cook, Sophie, who has a talent for them.
Bernie-Anne was a very convincing woman though and her confidence in me gave me the much-needed confidence in myself. So I delved into recipes for seafood chowder, roasted red pepper puree, potato and leek soup and just about any other unique soup that you’d rarely ever find or even hear about around The Bay.
Despite having burned a pot of corn chowder, burning my forearm from wrist to elbow with spilled French onion soup and wasting what I can only assume was a small fortune worth of groceries on failures, I began excelling at them.
A few students in the cafeteria had even begun asking if I was the one who had prepared the soup for that day, which made me smile from one little ear to the other.
One puree soup in particular captured the hearts and taste buds of my fellow classmates. Looking for a challenge, I resolved to put a unique spin on the next soup that I’d be instructed to make that week. As luck would have it, that soup turned out to be what is now my signature puree.
Akin to a pumpkin, a butternut squash resembles one that has been somehow stretched out and lightened. After cutting it in half and peeling it, similar to the way one peels a turnip, one can immediately see the gorgeous orange flesh inside.
When this flesh is roasted or simmered it is delicious in and of itself and goes great as a side dish for any meal. But is absolutely amazing when made into a pureed soup.
The following is the recipe for a soup that I guarantee you’ll enjoy eating as well as preparing.
The desired consistency is similar to that of tomato soup when finished. Finally, add your bacon bits to the mixture and heat it on medium low in a large saucepan for approx. 10 minutes or until the desired temperature has been reached, stirring frequently.