Monday, July 28, 2008

new/old fashioned pumpkin soup



On the weekend, post blog meet, I spent some time in Florence Nightingale mode. I sent the patient off to have a bath, remade the bed, plumped the pillows and provided warm, medicinal beverages. For breakfast there was porridge, slow cooked with sultanas and freshly ground nutmeg. Lunch was an omelette featuring bright yellow, organic eggs, vibrant green silverbeet and red tomatoes. By the time dinner came around I figured soup would be in order for the sick one. But what soup, there are so many to choose from?

For a cold, I figure there are two ways to go. I love healing soup rich with shitake mushrooms and ginger in a nice, clear broth but there was no fish stock or mushrooms at hand. Plan B is the orange route, where the road to good health is paved with beta-carotene to strengthen the immune system.

Chopping up the pumpkin on a cold Sunday night felt comfortingly familiar. With how many pumpkins, in how many houses had I performed this simple action? Pumpkins were not a key feature of my childhood and there was more chicken noodle soup out of a packet than the homemade vegetable variety. Pumpkin soup came into my life as a student in shared houses. It has gone through many phases since– roasting or simmering, simple flavours or bold, blended with a creamy substance or on its own – and seen me leave dairy foods far behind.

There is no hard and fast recipe but this one works really well.

When feeding a sick companion it is always nice to stir in some extra love and well wishes for a speedy recovery. After all, you hope they will get well soon and tackle the growing pile of dishes by the end of the week!

Pumpkin soup 101

(3-6 serves depending on appetite)

1 tab vegetable oil
1 medium onion
3 cm knob, ginger (this gives the soup zing, if you don’t like ginger then leave out but for me this is one of the joys of the meal)
2-3 cloves garlic
1 tsp red curry paste
1/2 stick of lemongrass, bruised
1/2 medium sized pumpkin (a Jap in this case but variety is up to you)
1 large white potato
1 large carrot
vegetable bouillon (hot vegetable stock)
coconut milk (optional)
salt

Get your favourite heavy bottomed pot onto the stove. For me it is my trusty cast iron number (the French one) that I have had for over 20 years. Bring to a low-medium heat and add the oil. The good thing about this soup is that it is blended, so the ingredients can be roughly chopped. Peel everything but you can go easy on the dicing.

Throw in the onions and ginger. Stir til the onions are becoming transparent then add the garlic, lemongrass and curry paste. One teaspoon of paste (I use Mae Ploy) is enough to give it a hint of warmth without dominating the flavour and making it a curried soup. Stir for another couple of minutes til the paste has released some of its aroma. Add the vegetables and coat well in the spices. Now cover with hot stock. The amount used depends on whether you prefer a thin or thick soup. I cover my vegetables with only a couple of centimetres of fluid. Simmer for at least 30 minutes. An hour if you really want. Stir from time to time and make sure the water hasn’t evaporated.

Remove the stick of lemongrass. You are welcome to put it back in once the soup is blended.

Take the soup off the heat, add a dash (only a tablespoon or two is needed) of coconut milk and use your trusty stick blender to give it a whirr. Be sensible. If the pot is really full take care so you don’t scald yourself with hot soup. Obviously you can let it cool or blend in batches in a food processor if you prefer.

Return to the heat and add salt if needed.

The artistes out there would garnish with a flourish of coconut milk, others might like to just let the flavours do the talking.

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12 Comments:

Blogger Johanna said...

you can always depend on pumpkin soup to be a cheery bright colour and a comfortingly velvety texture no matter what spices you use! Great invalid food

5:46 pm  
Blogger Lucy said...

That top photo...very nice work!

A pumpkin soup to cure all ills. Certainly does. Especially with a healthy dose of ginger.

9:57 am  
Blogger Ed said...

That's a great idea to jazz up pumpkin soup and I shall try it, perhaps tonight.

10:53 am  
Blogger docwitch said...

Sublime! Has to have ginger...oh yes indeed-y.

11:08 am  
Anonymous Duncan | syrupandtang said...

A lovely recipe:) I think i have to add a caveat to Johanna's comment though... pumpkin soup is usually great at home, but so often awful in restaurants (at least in my experience).

1:34 pm  
Blogger Another Outspoken Female said...

Thanks for the feedback guys. Sometimes basics with a little twist are the most comforting.

I agree Duncan but for me the nightmare would be chicken stock/booster and cream or yoghurt. Errk!

Lucy, the pic was a "happy accident" - I love the detail on the tablecloth.

6:10 pm  
Blogger Lucy said...

So do I!

7:12 pm  
Anonymous glutenfreeforgood said...

This sounds wonderful! I even have the cast iron pot you mentioned. I love all your ingredients — from the pumpkin, ginger, curry, and the coconut milk. But for some reason, I've never used lemon grass before. Hmmm? Wonder how that's skipped my culinary experimentation? I'll definitely try this, but may have to save the recipe for autumn. It doesn't seem quite the right season for pumpkin soup on this half of the planet.
Hope all is well with you!
In good health,
Melissa

2:27 am  
Anonymous Thermomixer said...

Love the asian spices in the soup. Very warming. Something to put out there is that Raymond Capaldi has for some time been saying that pumpkin soup tends to become bitter if cooked for more than 15 mins or so. Consequently he grates the pumpkin to shorten cooking time. Others' thoughts?

7:09 am  
Blogger Another Outspoken Female said...

Hey Melissa, must retro-tag it as of course the soup is also gluten-free. I don't usually add lemongrass but there was a stick of it in need of being used and it lifted the flavour slightly without being over poweringly lemony.

Thermo - the soup is sweet (til you add salt and get the flavours balanced). I've never tasted a variety of fresh, vibrant looking organic pumpkin that has a trace of bitterness when cooked - any thoughts on the bitter pumpkin controversy anyone?

8:42 am  
Blogger Ross Hill said...

Hey guys, you might be interested in meeting restauranteur Paul Mathis at The Hive next week - http://www.thehive.org.au.

8:29 pm  
OpenID vegeyum said...

I love the first photo. Extraordinary.

9:17 pm  

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