Halloween happened, and hot on the heels of the spooky chili comes a spicy not quite pumpkin soup. Pumpkins sold for decoration really don’t have much flavour at all, so we use butternut squash instead (don’t waste the scrapings from your pumpkin though, they can all go in to add bulk and a nice colour, just don’t put in any seeds or stringy bits).
2 butternut squash
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped
1 can reduced fat coconut milk
1 tablespoon Thai curry paste (yellow for a milder flavour, red or green if you’re going for hot-hot-hot)
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
500ml boiling water and one vegetable stock cube ( we like mushroom)
Salt and pepper to taste
Cut the squash in half lengthways and scoop out the seeds and stringy bits. Brush the cut sides with one tablespoon of the olive oil and put on a baking tray with the cut sides uppermost. Roast in a medium oven for about 40 minutes, or until the flesh is soft. Poke it with a knife to test.
Put the other tablespoon of oil in a large solid saucepan and soften the onions over a low heat for about 15 minutes. Don’t let them stick or go brown. Add the curry paste and paprika and stir it all about.
Meantime, scoop all the flesh from the squash and add it to the pan. Nigella Lawson maintains that you can eat the skin of roasted butternut squash but I’m not convinced. If you have any pumpkin scrapings, now is the time to add them. Pour over the coconut milk and the 500ml of boiling veg stock, give it all a stir and let it simmer for 20 minutes. Test the pumpkin flesh after this time to see if it’s softened. Take the pan off the heat if it’s all nice and soft, and blitz with a stick blender to a nice smooth consistency. If it feels a bit too solid, you can add more stock. Taste and add salt if needed, and several grinds of black pepper. Serve with croutons and a swirl of sour cream.
This soup is vegetarian (but do check the ingredients in your curry paste – some contain anchovy), and vegan if you leave out the sour cream.
1 ham stock cube dissolved in 1 litre boiling water
Put all the finely chopped veg in a large pan with the bayleaf and the oil, and heat gently, with a lid on the pan. This is called sweating your vegetables. After about 15 minutes the onions will be softened and transparent. At this point you can add the ham and the stock. Bring to the boil and turn down to simmering point. Then empty the tin of mushy peas into the pan and give it a stir. It’s ready when it’s all heated through. If it’s not thick enough for your liking, you can add some leftover cooked potatoes (if you want to add raw potato, peel one large potato and chop it finely and sweat it with the other veg right at the beginning). Season to taste with white pepper. Remove the bayleaf before serving.
This is the kind of soup which is very accommodating and will accept all manner of leftover cooked veg – although green cabbage, broccoli, and sprouts should be avoided as they stink when overcooked! If you have leftover veg you want to add, put them in at the same time as the peas.
Following the triumph of the remote control roast chicken on Wednesday, there was enough meat left over to make another meal for 4. Since we also had some rather old sweetcorn cobs (bought in anticipation of a barbecue that never happened) and some leftover new potatoes, chicken and sweetcorn chowder it was.
4 fresh corn-on-the-cob
1 tbsp light olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
300 g cooked new potatoes, skin on, diced small
500 ml chicken stock
500 ml skimmed milk
250 g cooked chicken meat, without skin, finely chopped
1 tsp dried tarragon
pepper and salt
To garnish: 2 rashers smoked back bacon
Take all the corn off the cobs (hold each one upright, then use a knife to cut down the cob to take off the corn). Heat the oil in a large saucepan and add the chopped onion. Cook the onion until it is translucent and soft, but not browned. Add the corn and the diced potatoes and then the stock and the milk, and the dried herb (if you don’t have tarragon, mixed herbs or thyme might do). Bring to the boil and simmer gently for about 5 minutes, then add about half the chicken meat and heat that through. Use a stick blender to blend the chowder so that it is coarse textured rather than smooth. Then add the rest of the cooked chicken meat and heat through for another 5 minutes. Taste and add a sprinkling of salt and lots of black pepper. Meanwhile, fry the rashers of bacon until they are crispy, take out and drain on kitchen paper then chop into little bits.
Serve the chowder with a sprinkling of crispy bacon bits, and some nice crusty bread.
NOTE: You could use frozen sweetcorn for this, and it would also work if you use uncooked old floury potatoes in place of cooked new potatoes – it would make it more authentic at any rate! In which case, peel and dice the potatoes and add them raw to the pan and cook them for 15 minutes until they are soft before blitzing with the blender.
A real ribsticker. It took Chris a while to crack this one, but he’s got the recipe pretty much perfect and it’s so much better than the stuff in the Unox tins we used to bring back from NL!
500g split peas
500g of bacon spare ribs, or two small ham hocks
100g streaky unsmoked bacon
1 horseshoe-shaped smoked sausage (rookworst) – Mattessons brand is the best known in the UK
2 large onions
1 large carrot
1 small head celery
2 litres water
Rinse the split peas in a sieve. They don’t need soaking. Put the 2 litres of water, the peas, the ribs or hamhocks and the bacon into a big pan and bring gently to the boil. Skim off the floating scum, pour off the water, rinse again and put the peas and meat back onto the heat with 2 litres of clean water. Let them simmer gently while you get on with preparing the vegetables. Peel and dice the celeriac and potatotes and the carrot, and peel and chop the onion finely. Add all the vegetables except the celery to the pan and let it all simmer very gently for about 2 hours.
Take the meat out of the pan, remove the rind and bones, and cut the meat into small pieces. Return it to the pan with the finely chopped celery, and the chopped smoked sausage. Add salt and pepper to taste before serving (it probably won’t need any salt).
This freezes very well, but make sure that you reheat it GENTLY or you’ll get exploding pea soup splashes all over your kitchen.