Sunday, August 29, 2010

Pumpkin Soup

Soup is the ultimate cold-weather food. Served together with that fantastic loaf of crusty spelt bread that you just made (go on, you know you want to), it's a great meal or snack for something to warm you up quickly. It also makes a good breakfast, as was demonstrated this morning, but you probably didn't need to hear about my penchant for real food at breakfast.

Pumpkin soup is a simple, filling and delicious soup to make. I used Hokkaido squash, which is the most readily available cucurbit at the moment. Butternuts, my usual favourite, are still tinged with green, and the really hard pumpkins are still unavailable. Hokkaido has a slightly chalkier texture, which means that this soup might take a little more water than your regular recipe, but it does thicken nicely.
I know, you're gasping with disbelief. Sacrelige! My pumpkin soup is not blended! I know, you're appalled. Unfortunately, at the time of making this (about 10:30am on a Saturday morning), my housemate still hadn't gotten up. So I decided to be polite - I know from experience (usually late at night on the weekend) that being woken up by the blender, especially when a certain housemate uses it to crush ice, is not a pleasant experience. So I decided to spare my other housemate from the horror. If it were the cocktail-making housemate, I might have a far prettier photo to show you...!

Pumpkin Soup
1 Hokkaido squash, about 1.5kg, cubed*
2 medium carrots, peeled and cubed
1/2 tsp fresh thyme leaves (or dried, if you must!)
2 lge stalks celery, diced (feel free to substitute one for 1/2 an onion)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 bay leaf
2 tsp stock powder (or better, use fresh stock in lieu of water, if you have it on hand)
salt and pepper to taste
sprinkle of nutmeg (optional)

Sautee celery, carrots, and onion, if using, in the olive oil until the celery is transparent. Don't be afraid to let it brown - this just adds extra flavour.
Add the pumpkin, and allow to soften a little. You can add fresh thyme here, too. When it reaches the point where you don't want to let your celery or onion brown any more, add enough water just to just cover the pumpkin. Add the bay leaf - and dried thyme, if you don't have fresh. Add stock powder. (Alternately, if you have real stock, use that in place of stock powder and water.)
Simmer, 20-25 minutes, until the pumpkin is soft. Allow to cool, then blend in batches until creamy, adding extra water if needed.
Season with salt and pepper, and sprinkle with nutmeg if you're so inclined.

*If you're using Hokkaido, don't bother peeling it. The skin is incredibly thin, and is very soft once cooked. So it'll just get blended up when you puree the soup, and because it's such a lovely colour, it'll just make your soup even more orange and luscious. :)

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