Food is a language of passion. Picture an alpine cabin with chocolate fondue and various fresh fruit laid out on a table beside a fire crackling in the hearth after a long day of skiing: intimacy is in the air. Or how about shrimp chips and a salsa dip along with a few mojitos on the beach at sunset. Maybe there’s a hole-in-the-wall, family-owned Italian restaurant in your neighbourhood where you can enjoy Penne Alfredo with a bottle of crisp white wine at a candle-lit corner table. Food can be a conduit for romance and passion, it stirs the senses and stimulates indulgence. More prosaically, food is also a focal point for the gathering of family and friends. A weekday supper where parents and kids can take a moment to take stock of the day, synchronize schedules and activities and talk out concerns is invaluable. Thanksgiving dinners with a roast turkey and all the fixings topped off with fresh baked pumpkin pie and vanilla ice-cream bring our dear ones together and give us pause to reflect on the year past and celebrate accomplishments.
Pumpkins are an icon of harvest festivals and the changing of the seasons. They are a versatile vegetable which can be used in soups, stews and desserts. They can be stuffed with a ground meat, rice and grated cheese mixture or a nut, greens and grain-based mixture and roasted. When cleaning out the inside of a pumpkin you can save the seeds, rinse and dry them then coat them with a little oil and seasonings and roast them for snacks or a salad topper. Pumpkin plants take up a lot of space in a vegetable garden: a couple of jack o’ lantern seeds germinated can take over a 10’X10’ square at full growth. [Ed Note: Quite true, as I grew my own as a kid, but I found that popcorn would cohabit nicely with it. Makes sense, given that one spreads horizontally and the other vertically.] We live out in farm country and keep a sizeable vegetable garden. We grow pumpkins annually, harvesting the ripened orange orbs and storing them in our cold cellar. Eight to eighteen inch diameter pumpkins are an ideal size, a one foot-diameter vegetable will render about eight pounds of chunked flesh which can be vacuum-sealed and stored in a freezer for future use in soups, smoothies other recipes. Quarter the pumpkin using a long rigid knife taking care to keep your fingers safe, then with a spoon scrape out the seed pockets. Alternately, the chunks can be roasted then puréed and frozen for future use.
Pumpkin, like its cousin winter squash – butternut or acorn, has an earthy, sweet nutty flavour not dissimilar from sweet potato/yam, but more subtle and muted. The following recipe is a very good example for making pumpkin soup. I recommend that if you are using fresh or frozen cubed pumpkin, then include this with the stock and let it cook in the boil-simmer step. Also: up the quantity of potatoes to two, up the nutmeg and curry powder to 1 Tsp each, up the dried marjoram to two Tsp, and add two Tbsp fresh chopped parsley with the cream at the end. Soups are easily transported and kept warm or re-heated for a tailgate buffet, why not bring some along for your next visit to Arrowhead. Good eats and go, Chiefs!
Preparation time: 5 minutes
Cooking time: 20 minutes
With a food processor or blender and some good rich stock, hearty soups can be whizzed together in minutes.
2 Tbsp butter
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 medium potato, finely chopped (unpeeled)
3 cups chicken stock
1/4 Tsp grated nutmeg
1/4 Tsp curry powder
1/2 Tsp dried marjoram
1 Tsp sugar
salt and pepper to taste
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 1/2 cups pumpkin purée (about 1 pound fresh or a 14 oz/398 mL can)
1/2 cup heavy cream
- Melt butter in a large saucepan and fry onion, garlic and potato over medium heat until onion is transparent.
- Stir in remaining ingredients, except lemon juice, pumpkin and cream.
- Increase heat and bring to a boil.
- Reduce heat, cover and simmer for about 10 minutes, or until vegetables are tender.
- Leave to cool slightly.
- Purée in a food processor or blender and return to saucepan.
- Stir in lemon juice and pumpkin and heat through.
- Adjust seasoning and pour into soup bowls.
- Swirl a little cream into each before serving.
The Recipes Only Cookbook by Carroll Allen and the food writers of Recipes Only Magazine; A Recipes Only/Lorraine Greey Book, Recipes Only Magazine Ltd, 1989, Telemedia Publishing Inc., Toronto, Canada. Page 49.