Saturday, April 24, 2010
Pumpkin hurling and soup making
One of the very best soup guides is home-made too: the invaluable Digby Law’s Soup Cookbook. It was in its 2nd edition and 7th reprint by the time I bought it in 1995. Happily (and most unusually) you can still buy it, along with Law’s Vegetable Cookbook (which I use even more often) and his Pickle and Chutney Cookbook, because all three were republished in 2007, twenty years after their author’s passing. (The only section I never use is “Chilled Soups”. The dreadful, ubiquitous 1970s fashion - yes, I was guilty of it too - for these, mostly a very vague take on gazpacho, has mercifully ended and should never be revived.)
Pumpkin Soup Base (adapted from Digby Law)
1 small pumpkin (or half a larger one)
1 large or 2 medium carrots
1 large potato
1 large or 2 medium onions
(The original recipe also had bacon rinds or bones, but I don’t think these are necessary. If you want a bacon flavour you can add it later.)
Find a patch of concrete or asphalt and hurl the pumpkin strongly to the ground, while picturing the person who annoys you the most and shouting “Take that, you so-and-so” (insert favourite term of abuse). The pumpkin will split into two or more pieces. If you get big ones, throw the pieces down again to break them up. Remove seeds and the soft fibrous flesh around them (or clean them off the concrete).
Wash the pieces and cut them into roughly even biggish chunks so they fit into a large microwaveable ceramic or glass dish. Add about ¼ cup of water, cover the dish loosely and microwave on high until the pumpkin is semi-soft, starting with 2 minutes and adding 1 minute at a time. (On my microwave I use the “fresh vegetables” setting.) When the chunks are cool enough to handle, peel them with a potato peeler and set aside.
Peel and chop the carrots, potato and onions. Put in a large saucepan, cover with water, bring to the boil and simmer, covered, until they are semi-tender. Add the pumpkin and cook until all the veges are very tender. Drain, leave to cool and puree in a blender or food processor. Season well with salt and white pepper (so there are no little black specks).
This gives a thick mixture which can have various flavours added, and be thinned with milk, reduced white wine, various kinds of fresh juice, or stock (but watch out for the level of salt). My favourite flavourings (and “thinners”):
• Good curry powder, gently sweated with finely chopped onion/garlic/ginger before adding the base and thinning (milk, coconut milk)
• Tomato puree, passata or paste, with bacon if you like – chopped and fried gently in its own fat first (stock, white wine)
• Freshly grated orange zest, softened in a little butter, and a small spoonful of honey (orange juice)
• Cream or yoghurt stirred in just before serving
• Finely chopped herbs – parsley, coriander, chives, lovage
The cleverly named SoupSong website is entirely devoted to soup. It’s just morphed into a blog, but its recipe backlist has an unusual, really good Turkish pumpkin soup, with the wonderful name of Balkabagi Corbasi. It uses a leek, is flavoured with garlic, allspice, cinnamon and honey, and has a spoonful of thick plain yoghurt stirred into each plateful just before serving. But you could use the base above and just add the flavourings.