Tuesday, May 1, 2012

An unusual twist to an old favourite

Pumpkin soup has got to be one of the classic cold-weather warmers. With its cheerful colour, cosily thick texture and distinctive taste, it's one of those dishes that turns up frequently on our autumn and winter table, especially when, as in this year, the garden is full of pumpkins. And they're all self-sown too, a prolific explosion of hybrid fertility, combining last year's Golden Nugget and Queensland Blue genes to create a pumpkin that's half way in size between the small Nuggets and the big Blues, with the Nugget's beautiful deep orange colour and the Blue's striated shape, making them look rather like the kind of thing Cinderella's fairy godmother touched with her magic wand.
It's a humbler kind of magic, turning them into soup, but more reliable, no midnight disappearance for that! (Unless of course someone gets up in the middle of the night feeling peckish..) And though we've made pumpkin soup hundreds of times in many different permutations and different ingredients, this is the first year we've hit on a new way of cooking it. And it was born out of frustration, for as well as the Blue's nice shape, this hybrid of ours has inherited the Blue's hatchet-blunting tough skin.
So what did we do? Instead of blunting knives and hatchets whilst also cutting fingers, or throwing the pumpkin on the floor to smash it into segments(as we've done before on occasion!)we cut off a bit from the top of the pumpkin(around the stalk), scooped out all the seeds, baked the pumpkin, covered in aluminium foil, in the oven for about 25-30 minutes, took it out again and then filled the central hole with chopped onions, garlic, herbs and chicken stock, then put it back in the oven to bake for a further 15-20 minutes or so. By this time all the flesh inside will have cooked,and you can either swirl it in with the stock etc to combine and serve as is, or, as we prefer to do, to tip out the liquid into a saucepan, and then add all the scooped-out flesh, mash a little, swirl to mix, add a little extra if you like: a little fresh chilli, or sour cream, or extra herbs or garlic, and then serve!
This method of cooking intensifies the flavour of the soup and really brings out the full colour of the pumpkin. And it's so much easier than trying to get the better of that pumpkin armour!

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