You're getting 2 recipes for the price of one this month! Given that it's coming up to Hallowe'en, I thought it would be appropriate to give you my version of pumpkin soup. Using pumpkins, onions and basil grown in the tunnel with my semi-dehydrated Rosada tomatoes as a pretty garnish.
And with a nod to my Welsh roots - my Malted Bara Brith, which is my take on a old recipe for a Welsh brack. This is a little bit different from an Irish Barm Brack. In this I use delicious home grown sultanas dehydrated from our Lakemont Seedless grapes, eggs from our hens which of course also eat tunnel produce, the rind of a Yuzu (an Asian cross between a wild lemon an a mandarin orange which I have growing in the fruit tunnel here) - and rather naughtily - some home-made damson liqueur!
Both of these are incredibly easy recipes that you don't have to stand over for hours - just what you want if you have a house full of kids for the half-term holiday!
(To make life easier - I'll put the recipes each on their own separate page so you don't have to wade through soup until you get to the cake!!)
Although they're seasonal at the moment - the ingredients are easily available everywhere - both organic and non-organic - you could also make them all year round, as butternut squashes are available most of the year now.
The soup makes a very satisfying lunch or supper with some nice crusty bread. The brack is delicious after the soup with a cup of tea or coffee, or at any time.
They're both suitable for vegetarians.
They both freeze incredibly well.
Lastly - They're both healthy! The ingredients are all very nutritious, and although the cake does contains some sugar and the malt - a lot of the sugar is in the fruit and it uses wholemeal spelt flour, so the sugars released more slowly - so they don't raise your blood sugar suddenly and dramatically. Anyway cake is not something you should really eat every day - but just as an occasional treat.
You'll need a large, heavy based saucepan for cooking the soup. For the brack you'll need a medium-largish sized saucepan for melting the malt with the tea and soaking the fruit in. It's nice if it's it's big enough to mix in the flour and spices as well - as that saves washing up! You'll also need a 2lb loaf tin, lined with greaseproof paper for cooking the brack.
(It was given this name by my kids about 30 years ago, and even though they're all grown-up now - they still love it! In the darkest depths of winter it really does seem to be filled with all the distilled essence of summer sunshine! It's real comfort food - like a foodie duvet or a hug in a bowl! This recipe serves about 8-10 people)
It's a very flexible and easy recipe - precise amounts don't really matter that much - it just works! If you fancy a bit more basil - or want to try using some different herbs or spices instead - go ahead and experiment! Substituting cocount oil for the olive oil or butter, with curry spices instead of the basil is good too. But this is our favourite.
1kg of peeled, de-seeded and cubed pumpkin or winter squash *(see below) - any good dense variety will do.By that I do mean NOT those watery pumpkin types sold for Hallowe'en carving - (If you want to use up the flesh of those rather than wasting it - you could try roasting it in the oven first and then making the soup, possibly adding a sweet potato, or a few carrots and red lentils for extra flavour. As I've said - experiment!). Butternut squash will do if you can't get a good pumpkin - but M&S are selling a good one called Crown Prince this year, which is ideal for this soup if you don't grow your own. And at some farmer markets organic growers may also have them)
2 (or more!) large garlic cloves crushed or chopped.
30g of butter or olive oil if you prefer.
1 to 1&1/2 lt. of chicken or vegetable stock (stock cubes are fine if you don't have home made) It's hard to be exact about the amount of stock as every pumpkin is different - but start with the soup thick-ish and thin it down with more stock as you like. The best pumpkins or squashes have an amazing 'mealy' texture when cooked and you can thin them down quite a lot - so if extra people turn up you can thin this down as much as you like with some stock.
1 tablespoon of frozen basil - or to taste. If you don't have any frozen basil you can use a small handful of chopped fresh basil.
Freshly ground black pepper to season.
To garnish - some basil pesto oil and semi-sundried chopped tomatoes if you like (or dehydrated if you have them)
(I use organic ingredients if possible but it's up to you. Organic ingredients are proven to be more nutritious and of course contain fewer chemicals)
1. First prepare your pumpkin or squash. When it comes to breaking into a squash or pumpkin - the very best, most dense ones are also the hardest to cut up. The best way to start is to cut them in half straight across the middle (I have been known to use a saw or an axe for doing this!) Then cut them into quarters and then into eighths. Next slice these pieces across into strips about 1inch/2-3cm wide. This way they're far easier to peel and then cut into cubes.. Don't attempt to peel the pumpkin/squash before you start - this is very difficult and can be very dangerous! Pumpkins don't take kindly to being peeled!
2. Heat the butter or olive oil in the large saucepan. Remove tops, tails and skins from the onions and the garlic, chop finely and sweat gently in the saucepan, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking, until translucent.(putting the lid on for the first couple of minutes creates a little steam which prevents it from sticking too easily. but remove lid when onions are half cooked)
3. Add the cubed pumpkin and stir around a bit to coat.
4. Add the stock and bring it all to the boil, adding a few grinds of black pepper at this stage but not salt as the stock may be salty enough.
5. Simmer over a low heat, stirring occasionally to avoid sticking or burning until the pumpkin cubes are soft enough to crush easily with a fork or potato masher..
6. Blitz in a blender or using a hand blender until you have a velvety smooth puree.
7. Stir in the chopped or frozen chopped basil.
8. If you want a slightly thinner soup just add a little more stock, then taste and season with a little more salt and pepper if necessary.
9. Serve in warmed bowls, accompanied by some warm crusty bread. This soup looks lovely garnished with a drizzle of basil pesto oil and some finely chopped semi-sun dried tomatoes. Adding a blob of creme fraiche first before the rest of the garnish looks very swish and is really delicious!
|1a.The pumpkin is easier to peel and cut into cubes if you slice it into strips first||1b. 1kg cubed pumpkin|
|2. Heat butter or oil in saucepan & sweat onions until soft||3,4,5. After adding pumpkin & stock, simmer gently until soft|
|6,7. 8. Blend soup, add the chopped basil, thin if necessary & adjust seasoning||9. Sunshine soup served garnished with creme fraiche, basil pesto oil & semi-dehydrated Rosada|