Friday, 2 November 2007

Roasted Pumpkin Soup with Croutons (egg free, dairy free, gluten free)

Joining a new family, whether by marriage or co-habitation, is a bit like travelling to a new and unfamiliar land. A land where the people look the same, they generally speak the same language, yet there is something very different. You may notice the difference when it comes to the size of their house or the price of their holidays. You may notice the difference when it comes to the newspaper they read, or whether the toilet roll is replaced with the paper hanging forward, or lying flat against the wall. That last one could be a deal breaker couldn’t it?

Yet perhaps the differences are most noticeable when it comes to how you celebrate the festivals that crop up throughout the year. Did you always open all your Christmas presents before breakfast? Or was the agony prolonged until the formal Aunts and Uncles arrived after the festive turkey? Did you only ever paint eggs you had blown yourself? Were you familiar with the concept of the Easter Egg Hunt?

I pondered family differences last weekend as three generations assembled in a corner of England. By nightfall the family was all present and correct. Our side rolled up fresh from Birmingham airport, our children proudly wheeling their wheely bags into Nanny and Grandad’s house. My little elves brought laughter, good cheer, and an awful lot of mess.

My husband’s brother took a circuitous route from London via Birmingham, was met by his lovely girlfriend, and they completed the rest of the trip by car. As the freshly-carved pumpkins nestled in the rockery, and the children’s eyes shone with excitement, we commenced a long-standing ritual – a bit early this year - the celebration of Guy Fawkes, and my Father-in-law’s birthday.

The first time I attended this celebration, I stood in awe as the well-oiled machinery rolled into action. Under the careful eye of my Mother-in-law, my Father-in-law taped old bedspreads to the dining room floor. Years of experience had taught them that by dawn, food, mud and grease would be well ground into the carpet. The table started to groan under the weight of grated cheese, ketchup, jars of pickles, bread rolls, knives and forks, glasses and bowls of nuts and crisps. Meanwhile, in the kitchen, the jacket potatoes were filling the oven and pan after pan of fried onions were adding their fragrance to the house. The sausages were lined up on plates and industrial amounts of baked beans were at the ready. The mince pies nestled in a tin, the thick cream impatiently awaiting its moment.

It turns out that it was ever thus. From earliest memory my husband has huddled around a fire eating jacket potatoes, hot dogs and beans whilst his Dad has launched fireworks from a pipe in the garden. The neighbours would come, the neighbours’ children would come and other friends and colleagues would drop by. Some brought food, others brought fireworks. As the eating and drinking began and the show commenced, there would be much ribbing if someone had offered sub-standard explosives. As the years have rolled on, the gathering has diminished, but the tradition remains strong.

This year there were 10 of us - two of us interlopers - Deborah and myself. We caused some consternation by adding to the menu. I had devised a soup, and Deborah – who hails from a land north of Luton – gave us ‘black peas’. When I heard that the recipe simply is: Black Peas, I was all for adding garlic, stock and spice, but my Mother-in-law urged caution. How right she was. Although they were a tad overcooked (by about an hour we think), the addition of vinegar to the black pea mix produced an amazing alchemy. All the water around the peas thickened instantly and with a sprinkling of salt these bad boys were delicious.

My soup was also hailed a success, as were the frankly terrifying fireworks I’d bought earlier in the day. How it is possible to unleash weapons of such potential destruction from your garden is beyond me. Every year I mutter, ‘how long until these are banned?’. This year my mutterings were drowned out by the wailing of my two year old; she is clearly too young for public displays of gunpowder. The evening came to a peaceful end with us sipping red wine and shivering uncontrollably as the fire died down.

I am fully on board with this family’s bonfire night tradition; I particularly enjoyed the slightly drunken staged photo we managed before the children went to bed. We balanced our cameras on the bird bath then raced excitedly down the garden to the whoops and cries of those already assembled. This last little ritual almost seemed the most important part of the evening; we have so few photos of everyone together. I plan to continue the celebration of Guy and my Father-in-law for many years to come, and I may have to add this soup to the evening's menu. It's best served in a cup and eaten with a teaspoon. It doubles up as a great hand-warmer.

Guy Fawkes' Roasted Pumpkin Soup with Croutons

If you are very organised, the pumpkin roasting part of this recipe can be done up to 24 hours before.
I like my soups really thick, a broth if you will. If you don't like it so thick, simply add a little more stock, but be careful, you don't want those croutons to sink now do you?

1 culinary pumpkin
3-5 cloves of garlic
salt and black pepper
olive oil for basting
2 large carrots
4 small leeks or 2 large ones
1 small potato
a handful of fresh coriander
a pinch of hot ground chillis (I cheated and used English Provender's 'very lazy red chillis')
a litre of boiling water
2 gluten free stock cubes

6-8 slices of gluten free bread for the croutons (I used this)
oil to fry
  • Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius
  • Cut the pumpkin into wedges and scoop out all the seeds and messy inner bits
  • Peel the garlic
  • Put the wedges and garlic onto a baking tray and pour over a good glug of olive oil. Use your hands to make sure each wedge is coated with oil. Grind over the salt and black pepper
  • Place in the oven for about 10-15 minutes, then turn them and cook for another 10 minutes until they are tender. Leave them to cool
  • Peel and chop the carrots into large chunks, prepare the leeks and also chop into large chunks. Peel the potato and chop into chunks
  • Put the carrots, leeks and potato into a large saucepan and add some olive oil to prevent sticking. Heat them very gently for about 10 minutes, making sure they don't stick
  • Add the chopped fresh coriander and the red chillis and stir
  • Mix the stock cubes with the boiling water and add to the pan. Bring the pan to the boil and leave to simmer uncovered until the carrots are tender. Remove from the heat
  • When the pumpkin wedges are cold, peel off the skin so that you are left with the soft inner part. Wipe any salt and pepper that gets left on the skins onto the flesh, you don't want to waste any flavouring, make sure you keep the garlic too
  • Using a ladle, remove about three ladlefuls of stock from the saucepan, keep it safe in a jug. I do this because I'm always paranoid about ending up with a runny soup; you can always add more stock, but you can't take it away. You can have that motto for free.
  • Put half the flesh into a blender, then add a few ladles of vegetables and stock from the pan
  • Blitz the mix, and transfer it to a bowl or a clean saucepan. Keep repeating this until all the stock/veg and pumpkin/garlic is blended
  • Now have a look at your soup and decide whether it's thick/runny enough. Add more stock if required
  • Now to the croutons. These are fiendishly easy and reminded me of the fried bread my Dad used to make when I was little. Cut the crusts off the gluten free bread and slice the bread into cubes
  • Pour enough oil into a frying pan to completely cover the base, then add an extra glug or two. You want about a centimetre of oil in the pan
  • Heat the oil until it is hot but not yet smoking. Put some sheets of kitchen paper onto a plate
  • Add the croutons to the oil and watch them sizzle. You'll have to turn them when the one side is brown, it's a bit of a painstaking procedure, but worth it. Brown the other side, then remove the croutons and put them onto the plate with kitchen paper. Ta-daaa! Isnt' that clever, you made your own croutons! I was very proud of myself.
  • When ready to serve your soup, warm it up, put it in cups and add a generous handful of croutons. Carry the cups outside to your guests, and remember, never go back to a firework that has failed to ignite.
© Pig in the Kitchen 2007

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Potty Mummy said...

Wonderful, Pig. But what about the parkin and treacle toffee?
I had a stab at parkin myself yesterday - it's maturing (minus a mouse-sized piece that Boy #2 got his hands on when my back was turned - he's very agile for a 21 month old), and am hoping that the fact I used the wrong type of porridge oats and wrong strength sugar (light instead of dark brown) won't be noticed by our guests tomorrow. Of course it won't - they don't know any better, they're Dutch. Thank heavens.

Iota said...

When I got married, I learnt that being 10 minutes late means you're late, and that fibbing is in fact lying. Luckily there were no shocks when it came to the toilet paper.

Akelamalu said...

Oh black peas with salt and vinegar! Your soup sounds delicious too. :)

elizabethm said...

You are so right about different families! the most tricky is stepfamilies, all the tiny ways in which things don't fit until you slowly remake another family altogether.

Marianne said...

Sounds pretty idyllic PITK. I envy you your close family. Families are a law unto themselves as you so rightly say, and being divorced, I have lost my in-law family, which is both a good and a bad thing. Perhaps I should start a step family.

The soup look delicious - I didn't realise there was a difference between pumpkins and one was more edible than the other.

Pig in the Kitchen said...

Oh Potty Mummy, i have missed so many tricks! I am a Parkin novice, but I have just sourced some 'coeliac-friendly' oats, so maybe... I do hope your Dutch guests enjoyed the scran, I'm sure they were very touched by all your work!

Iota, wow, strict in-laws then! But at least you got off lightly on the toilet paper front.

Akelamalu, I really enjoyed the black peas with salt and vinegar, had NEVER heard of it before!

Elizabethm, families are a minefield aren't they? I don't think any family unit is easy, it sounds as though you're doing a good job with your stepfamily though.

Marianne, it was a fun evening, and I am very lucky to have the family I have. I guess that's the advantage of a less than idyllic childhood; I appreciate the family I've created now. It must be hard to lose in-law family, a loss whichever way you look at it. A step family could be exciting...especially for us nosey bloggers!
I also had no idea that a 'culinary pumpkin' existed until I wandered down the aisles of Tesco. I suspect a marketing ploy to sell more pumpkns.

Amanda at Little Foodies said...

The toilet roll thing could definitely be a deal breaker!

Weird isn't it the whole family dynamic thing. Your comment to Marianne about the advantage of a less than idyllic childhood spoke a lot of words. But moving on... I asked a fellow blogger what the difference was between cooking pumpkins and carving pumpkins. Was it that the carving pumpkins had been so pumped with chemicals to make them grow that they were unfit for human (or animal) consumption? So far, no answer.

As to your question about picture collages. I used Picasa which you can download for free if you don't have it. It's the easiest one to use but you can't do much with it. Perfect for lazy technophobic me.

Marianne said...

Can I highjack your blog, just to tell amanda that wonderful, enormous pumpkins grew in my organic vegetable patch with absolutely no help from me (I didn't even know they were there until they began to turn bright orange). Perhaps the culinary ones are slightly smaller and fuller flavoured?

Dianne said...

The soup looks good! I havent had pumpkin soup, for ages. Maybe time for more ....


Mya said...

Oh Pig, all this talk of Guy Fawkes, bonfires and fireworks is making me feel very homesick.
The soup looks delicious and such a fab colour too.

Mya x

Pig in the Kitchen said...

Amanda, oh don't get me started on toilet roll etiquette! I'm a definite sheet hanging forward girl. The childhood leaves me determined to see the glass half full...the other way leads to misery i think.
Interesting about the pumpkins, but lovely Marianne (below) has added to the debate. Thank you for photo montage info, will look into it, it looks so impressive on your blog!

Marianne, I am all for you hijacking my blog, it makes me feel like I'm at the hub of things! How clever to grow pumpkins without meaning to, how can that be? Very bizarre.
The culinary one was definitely smaller and more orange, but the cynic within says they dyed it more orange and stunted its growth to fool the ignorant public...

Dianne, bless you love, it was yummy, although mother in law thougth it a bit garlicky - she thinks i have become too French. I think you can never have too much garlic. (but you could definitely become too French...)

Mrs Steinway said...

Lovely looking soup. You forgot to mention that the loo-roll issue can also become a deal breaker between friends. Especially when they sneak into your bathroom and turn the roll round the wrong way just to wind up their host. Naughty Pig! Perhaps next time you are over, you could fold the end into a neat point like they do in Travelodges...?!

Frog in the Field said...

Hi Pig!
Your get together sounds great fun and very similar to our family gatherings.
There's nothing like it.
We're having our next one this Sunday, complete with fireworks!
They are very, very scary affairs indeed when you first join the families though, I remember well how I was judged by my ability to produce food in a calm manner. It still irritates my Mother-in-Law to this day and my husband always says "can't you look a bit more flustered?"

Suffolkmum said...

Sounds like a great tradition. You put it so well, about the tiny tribal differences which can really mark out one family from another. We used to have family bonfire nights like that; now the village we live in has a huge - and fabulous- communal one which I guess is our new tradition. That loo roll HAS to have the sheet hanging forward!!

Silvana said...

Not surprised your soup was hailed a success - it looks absolutley delicious. Your family fireworks party sounds fantastic, far better than the heaving, horrible, local display we dragged ourselves out to.

lady macleod said...

Brilliant! It sounds fun, even from a distance.

Stay at home dad said...

Great stuff. Although you never call when you're over...

Miss Thistle said...

I read your blog and went to a my sister-in-laws annual firework display. I fret each year as my brother-in-law seems to break all those important safety rules. I just keep all the children at a very safe distance; and stand behind them!! (only joking!).
We were eating outside in the dark and I saw an interesting bowl of what I thought could be some of those black peas.. and found it was compost...nuff said! Love Miss T

Pig in the Kitchen said...

Mrs S, I'm afraid I have no idea what you are talking about. ;-)

FITF, I could use some coaching on the art of 'preparing food in a calm manner'...

SuffolkMum, it must be lovely to go to the village one. And think of all the work it saves you! With you on the toilet roll.

Silvana, thank-you! I'm sorry your display was not good. There is something to be said for the homegrown firework party.

Lady M, are you still in Canada? I will have to stop by and catch up.

SAHD, I know I'm sorry, my manners have deserted me. But I've come over to your blog a few times and no-one seems to be home...

Miss T, your brother-in-law sounds worrying. Had never thought of using the children as a human shield, what an excellent idea. Such a shame you didn't sample some of the compost, that would have made my weekend!
Thanks for stopping by.

Kelly Mahoney said...

Mmm, that sounds so tasty.

Love your blog -- it must be hard to have so many allergies, but the food looks tasty enough to not miss all that stuff.

beta mum said...

We used to go to my cousins' place on bonfire night and squeal as we were chased around the garden by jumping jacks.
This year we had friends over, and listened as the empty rocket casings fell onto our neighbours' slates.
Our garden is very small!

Brom said...

The hanging characteristic of the toilet roll feed? You notice this sort of thing? Amazing. I honestly could not tell you the colour of the carpets in every room of our house, the patterns on the curtains or the colour of the walls in some of the rooms.

The black peas sound interesting. I will investigate. Sounds like you had a great time!

Single Mother on the Verge said...

My partner Idris' family have this lovely tradition of being nice to one another, talking about cats, complimenting the food and sipping wine. My family has a tradition of throwing insults, drinking with the intention of getting well and truly sloshed and ending with a great hot-fired debate / can imagine our first xmas together at his brother's house...I was an utter, utter disgrace....

Am on strike in the kitchen but still impressed by tomes of recipes.
Smov x

Pig in the Kitchen said...

hello Kelly, thanks for visiting and for the compliments!

beat mum, hello. It's very true that what goes up must come down. In our old house we would find the rockets stuck in the playing field behind, 'how long until these are banned?..', look you've got me started again!

Hello Brom, I love the term 'toilet roll feed'. I thought a techy such as yourself would also notice something so important. The devil is in the detail...

Hello SMOV, ah, so not quite the union of two like-minded families then?!! I'm sometimes quite glad my family is diminished; we just go to husband's family, all very easy. I may come out on food strike in sympathy with you and the striking french train drivers...

disa said...