Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Curried pumpkin and carrot soup

Curried soups were one of my first "special" cooking skills I learned.  Somewhere online I found an article on making better soups and it included a 5-in-1 soup recipe - or something along those lines.  I remember being so proud of myself for making such a good and creative soup. Over the years, this method of cooking became a fall-back routine for me, but as my cooking improved and the techniques and recipes I had been exposed to grew, this well-deserving recipe fell out of use.  It wasn't that it didn't taste good to me, but it had lost the original excitement for me. 

Then, just 2 days ago, I was staring at a whole bunch of carrots in my fridge and half of a Hokkaido pumpkin - leftovers from a walnut pumpkin lasagna.  Soup came immediately to mind.   So I pulled out a few of my many traditional Austrian recipes for pumpkin soup, thinking I'd just add some carrots to it.  I opened my spice cabinet and my eyes fell on my curry jar.  Memories of that first time I made really good soup came back.  I called into the living room to ask M what he would prefer - traditional pumpkin soup or one made with curry.  I held my breath.  He chose curry.  I jumped on it. 

This way of making soup is super versatile.  I don't remember what vegetables exactly the original recipe was for, but it had a carrot soup version and a cauliflower version, never a pumpkin version and never a mixed vegetable version.  I believe good recipes are there to be used as inspiration. My good ole friend of a recipe didn't let me down this time.  As I cautiously tasted the soup, I remembered why I used to cook vegetables this way so often.  Try this out, not only with pumpkin, but also with just carrots or with cauliflower or red beets or or or.  

The secret is the pan roasting of the vegetables first.  It caramelizes the sugars and locks in the flavor.  If you just plop veggies in a broth and then puree, you'll end up with something akin to baby food.  Great for babies, boring for adult taste buds.  So you really want to make certain your veggies end up golden brown, but certainly not burnt.

A few tips when cooking with pumpkin. Hokkaido is my favorite for soup, but others such as butternut squash are also good.  My sister-in-law gave me the tip, that at least for Hokkaido, there is no need to remove the outer peel of the pumpkin.  Which is a BIG pain in the butt. Just wash it super well.  Cut the stem and base away as well as any obviously knobby parts.  Then cut your pumpkin into cubes and plop them into the pot. 

This recipe is best with a bit of Styrian pumpkin seed oil, but a really exquisite olive oil can be substituted. Serve this with a really crusty, heavy whole grain bread.


Curried Carrot and Pumpkin Soup
Notes: It is better to use a flavorful vegetable broth.  If using bouillion powder, go right ahead and add an extra (half) teaspoon. I am also a fan of really thick soups.  Add a bit of broth if it's too thick for your taste.  If you are a curry fan, add an extra teaspoon or use a stronger version of curry powder. If you are not a curry fan, try this recipe without the curry.  Mix into the soup a bit of crème fraiche and serve with a spoonful of sour cream plopped on top.  Nomatter how you make it, serve with a really good crusty whole grain bread.

Prep time: 15 min
Cooking time: 20-30 min
Servings: 4 large bowls of soup

1 onion
2 cloves garlic
small piece of fresh ginger
500g / 1 pound / ~1/2 a medium Hokkaido pumpkin
2 medium carrots
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt & pepper
2 teaspoons curry powder
700ml vegetable broth
2 teaspoons lemon juice (optional)
roasted pumpkin seeds or fresh chives (garnish)
pumpkin seed oil (garnish)
Prep the vegetables. Wash the carrots and pumpkin well. As long as they are organic, there is no reason to peel or cut away the shell. Cut away both ends of the carrot and chop the rest into thick coins. Cut the pumpkin in half and with a spoon scoop out the seeds and stringy bits. Chop into roughly the same size cubes as the carrot coins. Peel and chop onion. Peel and mince the garlic and ginger.

Heat oil in a large soup pot. Add onion, garlic and ginger. Sautée, but do not burn, until fragrant and onions start to turn translucent. Add in carrots and pumpkin. Stir occasionally, but allow them to brown (approx. 8-10 minutes). Add curry and salt and pepper. Mix to cover evenly and cook for a few minutes until curry is fragrant. Then, pour in the broth. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until the vegetables are able to be pureed (approx. 10 min).

Remove pot from heat. Puree the vegetables with a hand held mixer or in batches in a blender. Adjust consistency by adding broth. Taste and adjust seasonings, adding up to 2 teaspoons lemon juice for flavor.

Serve with chopped pumpkin seeds or chives and a few drops of pumpkin seed oil.
© 2010 Nicole

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