Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The March of the Pumpkins!

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Please excuse our absence - we have been away on a half term holiday. But we are back in time for Halloween.
I am feeling a little uneasy about our pumpkin, modelled above by Freddie, who wishes you all a very Happy Halloween. He is contemplating a sugar-fuelled romp around the houses of West London. He has already identified a street with the poshest houses, where he hopes to collect industrial quantities of e-numbers. Tonight he will come home, tired but excited, probably floating several feet above his bed,a Happy Halloween Helium boy.
Back to my unease. The mistake I made with this pumpkin was to become too friendly with it. It all started with the March of the Pumpkins. Mr P and a friend of his, were given to me by the school gardening club. I made Pumpkin Soup with Mr P's friend which the children sipped in their vegetable garden one autumn evening before half term. Chris and I carried these huge orange beasts for the mile walk between school and home. Cradled in our arms, we walked alongside the River Thames, crossed over a dual carriage way, down the high street, through the bus station and through the park to our home. Alex gave him a name, Mr Pumpernickel and we saved him for Halloween. For the past ten days he has been sitting happily on a large set of scales, which act as a throne for visiting vegetables. Pumpkins are the Mr Happy of vegetables: curvy, warm-coloured and plump. So when I came to slice off his head, scrape out his innards and pick out the seeds, I felt like I had betrayed my orange friend. Which is why it is even more important that I make something delicious for lunch today. This is our Pumpkin Soup. Not only has it been approved with a 9 out of 10 rating from Freddie. It has also been taste-tested by ten keen young vegetable gardeners from school. What are you all doing with your poor pumpkins?
Roasted Pumpkin Soup with maple syrup
Serves 4-6
1 medium sized pumpkin
2 medium sized potatoes, peeled and finely diced
800ml of vegetable or chicken stock
2 onions, chopped finely
2-3 tbsp of olive oil
1-2 tbsp of maple syrup
2 tbsp of crème-fraiche
1 clove of garlic
Salt and Pepper
Sprig of rosemary


Preheat oven to 200C. Cut the pumpkin in half, scrape away the seeds and white pith and rub olive oil over the flesh inside. Season with salt and pepper and then place the two halves of the pumpkin with the cut side facing down, on to a baking tray. Put a sprig of rosemary under each half as it bakes in a preheated oven for 45 minutes, depending on its size, or until the flesh is completely soft. Scoop out the flesh into a bowl. In a large pan, sauté the chopped onions, crushed garlic and finely diced potatoes in a tablespoon of olive oil for about 5 minutes. Add the pumpkin flesh and stock. Bring to the boil and then turn down the heat to low and simmer gently for 15-20 minutes. Turn off heat and when it has cooled a little, pour into all into a food processor and blend until smooth, adding the maple syrup and crème-fraiche.

13 comments:

  1. Hello all of you - Happy Halloween! You are more than welcome to gate crash for cake!!!

    Tonight we are having your pumpkin and bacon risotto - I can't wait to try it. I roasted the pumpkin left over from my carving with some whole garlic, olive oil and salt and pepper and it smells delicious! I am going to stir this through your recipe in place of the steamed pumpkin. We will raise our glasses of bad blood juice in toast to you all and your delicious recipe!

    Hannah
    xxx

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  2. This evening I shall be attempting pumpkin pasta... I have never cooked with pumpkins before so I am looking forward to how it turns out!

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  3. Poor Mr P! But surely he knew he had it coming - pumpkins, by now, must be quite pragmatic about the whole thing. Looking forward to making your gorgeous soup. Happy Halloween to you all!

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  4. Hannah - I hope it goes well and tastes good. We have just enjoyed MR P for lunch. It was a dignified end.

    Alice - Pumpkin Pasta sounds good. David at Book the Cook ( his blog is on my list to the right) has a great pasta with pumpkins and mussels recipe on his site.

    Amanda,
    I know, I know. They have a thick skin!

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  5. Happy Halloween Freddie and Friends!
    You've so many wonderful pumpkin recipes to try - I've loved looking at all the other blogs and their pumpkin ideas. I think maple syrup was made for pumpkins - I'll add some to my pumpkin muffins next time! Perfect! (I used to say I didn't like maple syrup - then I went to Vermont!).

    I love the idea of the throne for visiting veg!

    Celia

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  6. The soup does sound amazing!! My pumpkin sits outside on my deck, untouched and uncarved. I now live in a condo so no trick or treaters for me this year. My daughter is the pumpkin carver and has outsurpassed me for years!

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  7. I think our vegetal effort for the evening (okay, maybe for the week) will be jack-o-lanterns. I have, at this point, cleaned out enough pumpkins that the smell is starting to make my appetite wilt. Although I will say, the pumpkin and bacon risotto looks fantastic.

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  8. Hi
    We fried the seeds of our pumpkin - & they are really good to snack on - they have almost all been eaten now.
    The tale of our pumpkin is in this post, & I will link your soup recipe to it, if that is OK:
    http://topveg.com/2007/10/28/green-thumb-sunday-homegrown-pumpkins/

    It must be good with 9 out of 10!

    Thanks

    TopVeg

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  9. Pumpkin is a dream to work with. It can still hold its shape when roasted, and it is luxurious in texture when pureed. I love its depth and bright, warming colour. The hulled sweets can be roasted with butter and spices to make a nice brittle to serve with cinnamon ice cream. If only it were Autumn in the Southern Hemisphere - your soup appeals greatly.

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  10. Shaun -
    You are right. It is a very easy vegetable to work with. Its accomodating. Tell me more about how you make the brittle - I am really intrigued.

    Top Veg
    I loved your post - thank you for linking to the soup.I hadnt thought of frying the pumpkin seeds - did you just saute them in a little oil?

    Valli
    Get your pumpkin carver round and make some pumpkin soup. Its fabulous and great for the autumn evenings...if it is cold where you are? Where in the States are you?

    Meg
    You owe it to that poor pumpkin to be generous with its flesh!

    Celia,
    I am a late convert to Maple Syrup too. It is great as an alternative sweetener in recipes... I have to ration it though. A it is expensive and B, my children are gluttons with maple syrup.

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  11. Pumpkin soup with maple syrup - yum!

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  12. Charlotte - My apologies for the delayed response. I am in the midst of completing my Master's thesis and often don't get around to doing what I love (reading food blogs and cooking). Anyway, here are my recipes for pepita (hulled pumpkin seeds) brittle and candied pepitas:

    Pepita brittle
    100g pepitas
    85g vanilla caster sugar

    1) Scatter sugar in the base of saucepan and make a caramel out of it. This is best achieved over a medium heat. Wait until the sugar has started to brown before swirling the pan, then leave it to brown more. You want it quite dark.
    2) Throw in the pepitas. Stir briefly.
    3) Pour onto a buttered or lined baking tray. Leave to cool and set.
    4) Bash into chunks, forming a the brittle, which can be served alongside desserts (like panna cotta or creme caramel) or on top of ice cream.

    Candied Pepitas
    180g/2 cups pepitas
    5 tablespoons sugar
    1 large egg white, beaten
    pinch of coarse salt, plus more for seasoning
    pinch of ground allspice
    pinch of cayenne pepper

    1) Preheat oven to 180 C.
    2) Stir ingredients together in a bowl.
    3) Spread mixture in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
    4) Bake until pepitas are golden and slightly puffed, approximately 10 minutes.
    5) Season with salt.
    6) Stir gently, leaving some clumps.
    7) Let cool completely in a bowl before storing in an air-tight container for up to three days. Sprinkle a small handful over pies (pumpkin is a natural choice during Autumn). You can also snack on them, but that may not be the healthiest of choices given the sugar.

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