Halloween, followed closely by bonfire night, is a well entrenched tradition for our children and their friends, highly anticipated, planned and enthusiastically enjoyed by all. Therefore it was with some disappointment that I reluctantly cancelled our Halloween dinner. I’d looked forward to a vampire theme menu and dressing up but the usual problem prevailed, not enough bookings. Themed nights are still a bit hit and miss for me, but that doesn’t stop me trying and so I will continue to do so.
Despite no ‘official’ dinner, the night was duly marked and enjoyed with all the trappings of a traditional Halloween; pumpkin carving, masses of sweets (for trick or treaters), dressing up in spooky costumes, the consumption of plenty of hot pumpkin soup, followed up by tarte tatin with its luscious caramel apple centre.
Pumpkin itself tends to be overlooked and hugely underrated. Most people will simply carve theirs out and throw away the flesh, under the impression that it is a watery and insipid vegetable. I’m amazed at how many people I hear say they don’t like pumpkin, but I often wonder what kind of experience they’ve had of it. Perhaps in a bland and tasteless pie, or mashed to within an inch of its life, or even in a thin, uninspired and under seasoned soup. I simply think that with the right kind of advice on what to do with it most people will warm to pumpkin soup.
My own Pumpkin soup with chilli and ginger (adapted from a River Cafe recipe) seems to have won many Pumpkin haters over recently. With the glut we’ve had at Moelyci I seem to have a constant pot of it on the go. It’s so easy everyone should have a go at making it!
Simply peel and finely chop a couple of red onions and fry gently in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and 50g butter. When soft add a couple of crushed garlic cloves, the leaves from a few sprigs of fresh marjoram, about an inch or two of fresh ginger peeled and grated and cook for 30 seconds before adding 1.5kg (that’s about 3 and a quarter pounds) of pumpkin and 150g scrubbed and diced new potatoes. I say new, but generally its main crop potatoes at this time of year and I can’t see much difference really. Cover the vegetables in the pan with good vegetable stock and season with salt, pepper and a small crumbled dried red Chilli (or use fresh if you would like it to knock your socks off). Simmer gently until cooked, about 20 minutes or so. Allow to cool briefly before blitzing in a blender. Check the seasoning then serve with toasted crostini (basically ciabatta, crisped in the oven or toasted under the grill, drizzled with olive oil and rubbed with garlic), and a bit of grated parmesan.
This soup cries autumn! It’s warming and comforting, not just for Halloween, but for the whole of the season, well at least until those pumpkins run out.