Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Warm soup in cold Galway

Well here in Galway there is no need to look out the window before getting dressed for the day because it will undoubtably be cold and wet. Summer barely arrived and has now gone for good, and the clouds will probably not lift until next May. The only true answer to this dreariness would be to go find some tropical island on which I could spend the day lying in the sand, but that sadly is pure fantasy and I must settle for grey skies for another couple of months. At this time of year my thoughts seem to revolve around nice warm food and I would prefer to spend my days in the kitchen than at work. However, the dire state of my bank account does not currently allow me to go cooking-mad, and it's not like I have hordes of hungry people to feed, so for now I will settle for soup. Soup is great: it is easy, it is cheap, it can be an entire meal, you can freeze it for later, you can add lots of flavours or make do with just a couple of vegetables that have been hanging out in the cupboard for ages. It's also a really easy way to get in lots of the vegetables that you need, especially at this time of year when the variety of summer is not so easily available.

So this week's pot of soup (actually I don't have a really big soup pot, I would really like one) is pumpkin, though here in Ireland all I can get is butternut, which is not quite the same but pretty close. For just a simple pumpkin soup you can just boil it up, along with onion and bacon and whatever else you want for flavour, and then process it till it's smooth. For this soup though you first roast the ingredients, which tends to give it a slightly different flavour. The first time I made it I used wild bacon, which turned out to be much saltier than I was expecting, so after a bowl of soup you were left really thirsty. I like salt though, so I didn't mind. Soon it will be October and for a brief few weeks there will be real pumpkins in the supermarket! I have loads of pumpkin recipes so keep an eye out if you, like me, love pumpkin. Even if you don't, you should try it, because it's one of those amazing vegetables that is really good for you, with all sorts of vitamins and minerals and anti-oxidants, not to mention it may have anit-diabetic, anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic properties. It is really good roasted and savoury, but even better in a sweet dish like pie or muffins.

Roast Pumpkin Soup

1 butternut squash or 1/2 grey pumpkin
1 brown onion
4 cloves garlic
*200 grams bacon

Thyme, oregano and rosemary - about one teaspoon each if dried, a bit more if fresh
Olive oil

Heat the oven to about 180 degrees celsius.

Chop the squash or pumpkin and the onion into large chunks, and roughly chop the garlic. Toss the chopped pumpkin and onion together with the garlic, herbs and oil (just enough oil to coat them nicely, maybe a couple of tablespoons?). If you have bacon and want some extra protein in your soup, chop this up and throw it in with the pumpkin. Keep in mind though that bacon is salty, so you may not need extra salt later. Not to mention that processed pig meat has carcinogenic properties and nobody should eat too much of it.

Spread the whole lot out in a roasting dish and place in the oven until the pumpkin is soft and browned, maybe 20 or 30 minutes, depending on how large the chunks are.

If you have a big food processor, you could at this point throw all your roasted vegetables into that along with a couple of cups of boiling water and give it a good whizz, and then all it will need is a bit of salt and pepper and you're finished!

However, I do not have a big food processor, so if you don't either use a saucepan like I do. Move the roasted pumpkin into a large saucepan. Pour water over until it covers the pumpkin, maybe a couple of cups. Of course, it depends how thick you want your soup to be, and you can always add more water later. I didn't add it to the ingredients above, as it is entirely optional, but if you like you can also sprinkle a chicken stock cube into the water, if you like nice strong flavours, though if you are adding bacon you really won't need it. Use your stick-blender to make it nice and smooth, and bring your soup to the boil. Season with salt and pepper as you like and you're done!

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