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Wednesday, November 02, 2016

'Pumpkin soup, the best you ever tasted' - a tasty recipe for those pumpkins

'Pumpkin Soup' by Helen Cooper. Picture credit: Caroline Hennessy. 
This time of year, shops and supermarkets have piles and piles of pumpkins lying around, on special offer and almost everyone tempted by a bargain is looking for a way to use these wonderfully orange and tempting looking pumpkins. 

In this article, food blogger Caroline Hennessy gives us a delicious recipe for those pumpkins and also a fun story about Halloween, the joy of eating pumpkins and how there is much more to a pumpkin than a carved scary face. 


'Pumpkin soup, the best you ever tasted'
BY CAROLINE HENNESSY

"Deep in the woods there's an old white cabin
with pumpkins in the garden"
There's a suitably sinister start to Helen Cooper's superb picture book 'Pumpkin Soup' that's perfect for this time of year. Even though the five-year-old Small Girl and Little Missy, now seven, have graduated onto the more sophisticated scares of Roald Dahl's 'The BFG' and 'Matilda', there's something about Halloween that has them scrabbling through the bookshelves for this old favourite.

Frights aside, the worst thing you'll be left with after reading 'Pumpkin Soup' is a rumbling tummy from Cooper's evocative descriptions of the nightly supper enjoyed by the bag-piping cat, banjo-playing squirrel and small singing duck. They are friends who live together, make music together and cook pumpkin soup together. 

Each of them has a defined job:
"Made by the cat who slices up the pumpkin.
Made by the squirrel who stirs in the water.
Made by the duck who scoops up a pipkin of salt, and tips in just enough."

But one day, duck decides he wants to stir the soup. It all goes horribly wrong and he storms off in a huff, although not forgetting to bring along a pumpkin in a wheelbarrow. 

'Pumpkin Soup' might be about sharing and squabbling and making up, but it's the descriptions of the soup that get me every time.

"Pumpkin Soup.
The best you ever tasted."

How could anyone resist a siren call like that? When we see the first pumpkin of the year, it's dragged home to be – firstly – admired by the girls, then butchered, roasted and blended to make a cauldron of a gently spiced pumpkin soup.

Irish grown Halloween pumpkins. Picture credit: Caroline Hennessy. 
We've tried this with the monster orange pumpkins that are piled high in a threatening manner this time of year, but they are bred for looks and jack o'lanterns, rather than for flavour.

If you do manage to get your hands on a handsome grey crown pumpkin – the kind of one that looks fit to bring Cinderella to a ball – it works beautifully, but otherwise go for any pumpkin marked edible. Or even – whisper it – use butternut squash (just don't tell the kids).

But don't despair; not all of that king-sized pumpkin will go to waste.

When the children disembowel their jack o'lantern pumpkin, make sure they don't throw away the guts.



The joys of scooping out the pumpkin and getting it ready for carving. Photo credit: Caroline Hennessy. 
Get them to wash the fibrous strings off the seeds, toss with olive oil and chosen seasonings – salt is obligatory and smoked paprika works well, as does cinnamon – and roast in the oven (180C, 10 minutes) while the edible pumpkin cooks. They're the kind of pre-dinner snack that you'll have to stop yourself from eating and the smallies will be charmed that their pumpkin has more to it than just a pretty scary face.  

Pumpkin Soup
Roast pumpkin gives this soup a great depth of flavour. Feel free to use leftovers or to pop the pumpkin into a hot oven when other baking is going on. Vegan? Use vegetable stock instead of chicken and abandon the finishing yoghurt. Serves 4.

What you will need
1kg pumpkin, deseeded and cut into wedges.
2 tablespoons olive oil.
1 onion, roughly chopped.
3 cloves garlic, sliced.
1 teaspoon turmeric.
2 teaspoons ground cumin.
2 teaspoons ground coriander.
2 teaspoons garam masala.
1kg roasted pumpkin.
1 litre chicken or vegetable stock.
125g red split lentils.
1 x 400g tin coconut milk.
1 lime.
Sea salt, freshly ground black pepper.
Natural yoghurt to serve.

·         Preheat the oven to 180C. Brush the pumpkin wedges with 1 tablespoon of oil and spread out on a  baking sheet. Season with salt and pepper then roast for 40 minutes or until tender.
·         Heat the other tablespoon of oil in a large saucepan and, over a medium heat, fry the onion and garlic for 8-10 minutes until soft and sweet. Add the spices to the pan and stir, cooking for a minute, until the mixture smells fragrant.
·         Scoop the roasted pumpkin from its skin and tip it into the saucepan, along with the chicken stock, red lentils and coconut milk. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes until the lentils are cooked.
·         Purée with a hand-held blender or use a potato masher for a more textured soup.

·         Season to taste with lime juice, salt and pepper. Serve with dollops of natural yoghurt and lots of hot buttered toast or naan breads for dipping.

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