(UPDATE: I originally forgot to say what you do with the pancetta in the recipe below. Whoops! Thank you for the heads up, Jane and Helen. I've added that bit, in orange. Apologies!)
If you are sick of arguing about screen time, or whose turn it is to choose the DVD, or how long someone has been hogging the Wii, or explaining (again) that DSL access is not an inalienable right, go outside and light a fire. A bonfire, that is.
Dispatch the squabbling children to gather as much wood as they can carry.
Build a pyre. Make it a big one.
Invite the neighbors.
Pull out some marshmallows.
Let the kids (finally) play with sticks.
Find an extra long branch for a late-night limbo contest.
Pitch a tent for sleepy little ones.
And pass around mugs of hot soup, with hunks of thick, chewy sourdough.
(A glass of wine wouldn't go astray, either.)
Wii? What Wii? Can we do this again, Mum? Tomorrow???
Fire trumps electronics, every time.
I love living in the Hills.
Bonfire Soup (aka Roast Pumpkin Soup With Pancetta & Parmesan), adapted from Gourmet Traveller
Everyone has a go-to pumpkin (butternut squash) soup recipe, but this one has, for me, eclipsed all previous interpretations. I finally tried it as a result of my magazine culling project and it has earned a permanent place in the rotation. The secret is in the pancetta, which gives it a meaty heartiness that is incredibly satisfying - perfect for a chilly Autumn night around the bonfire. Enjoy.
p.s. My son's kindergarten class has a brilliant healthy snack program: each Monday during the Autumn and Winter months, the children take turns bringing in a pot of their favorite soup, and some bread, to share with the class.
The benefits are trifold: everyone gets a warm snack on a chilly day; children are exposed to new foods, which they are more inclined to try in a group situation; and it's nutritious.
DB chose Bonfire Soup for his contribution and it was a hit, with boys coming back for second helpings. Kid-tested, mother-approved. What better endorsement could you ask for?
3 butternut pumpkins (about 1.2 kg each), unpeeled, quartered, seeds removed
100 ml olive oil
40 gm butter, coarsely chopped
2 red onions, thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
130 gm round mild pancetta, finely chopped
2 litres (8 cups) chicken stock
1 tbsp thyme leaves
90 gm finely grated parmesan
1.5 tbsp red wine vinegar
1. Preheat oven to 200C. Place pumpkin skin-side down on an oven tray lined with baking paper, drizzle with olive oil, season to taste, roast until very tender and caramelised (50 minutes - 1 hour). Scoop flesh out of skins (discard skins), set aside.
2. Heat butter and remaining olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat, add onion and garlic, sauté until golden (6-8 minutes). Add pancetta, sauté until crisp (2-3 minutes), add pumpkin, stock and thyme. Bring to the simmer, cook until flavors infuse (8-10 minutes). Process with hand-held blender until very smooth, stir through parmesan and vinegar, season to taste and keep warm.
3. Optional: If you want to be fancy-pantsy, you could make some parmesan toast by combining 100 gm butter (softened), 75 gm of parmesan, and 1 finely chopped garlic clove, spreading the mixture over thin baguette slices and grilling. I was lazy and went for a loaf of artisan sourdough, which we ripped apart with our hands - very primal. Must have been all that fire....
Image of bonfire found here.