Thursday, December 22, 2011

Versatile Cooking - Pumpkin Soup

BURRRR! ETD-ers..  

It's been a cold couple of weeks here in the northern hemisphere, and I'm using this chill-out as a perfect inspiration to make some classic winter warmers for my Versatile Cooking Series.  In brief, I'm attempting to use the same ingredients to make multiple dishes.  During this time of festive austerity, I want to show the non-believers that good home cooking can be simple and easy on the bank balance.  Simply stock your cupboards with some core ingredients and get stuck into my recipes!   

Having selected garlic, onions, carrots and celery to be the heart and soul of this blog, I've decided to kick it all off with a classic - Pumpkin Soup.  The way I make this uses very simple ingredients, and is a great way to get those all important vitamins and minerals into a healthy meal that's effortless to prepare and has heaps of options for garnishing...Let's get started!

Pumpkin Soup =)

2 Medium Sized Onions
2 Carrots
2 Celery Sticks
2 Garlic Cloves
3 Sprigs of Sage
1 Small Sized Potato
500g Pumpkin or Butternut Pumpkin
1 litre Vegetable Stock
1 tsp Paprika or Smoked Paprika
Salt & Pepper (to taste)

1 Large Pot / Casserole Dish
1 Chopping Board
1 Kitchen/Chef's Knife
1 Blender/Food Processor*
1 Soup Ladle
*This meal can be made manually using a masher

This recipe is simple.  Add 2 generous lugs of olive oil into your pot.  Peel and chop your onions, carrots and celery.  There's no real need to do this in any fancy way - just chop them up.  If you're using organics or fresh from the farm/garden make sure you wash your veggies first.  Next, peel and finely slice your garlic.  

Diced Up Veggies!
Take your sage and finely slice it up so that its very small delicate pieces, almost a dust of sage.  I love the smell and texture of sage, just beautiful!  
Did you know, Egyptians use Sage as a main ingredient in Bedouin Tea?
Mmmm! The Aroma of Freshly Chopped Sage!
Now, peel and chop up your potato, and your pumpkin.  I like the Butternut Pumpkin, but you use whatever pumpkin you prefer.  When peeling the skin off of the pumpkin I take my large kitchen knife and I slice the skin away because using a peeler is too much effort.  So, take your sharp knife and shave the skin away in slithers (losing just a few millimeters  of the flesh), this will make your life a million times easier.  I start the process by chopping the pumpkin into smaller manageable chunks.  I then dice the peeled/shaved pumpkin and we're ready.

Butternut Pumpkin - My Personal Favorite
Small Manageable Chunks
Shaving the skin off with a sharp knife to make life easier.
Get your oil warmed up on a low to medium heat/flame on your cooker hob.  Add your garlic, onion and sage to the pot and lightly brown them for 5 to 10 minutes.  Next, add the carrot, celery and pumpkin.  Mix up the ingredients and ensure that all of them are infusing nicely.  

Browning the Onions, Garlic and Sage
Mix all the ingredients evenly - doesn't it look yummy?
Make a small well into the middle of the ingredients in the pan, then add the  vegetable stock, followed by the salt, pepper and paprika.  Mix everything well, turn up the heat/flame and bring the soup broth to the boil.  

Knock up a litre of vegetable stock
Pour Stock into the well in the middle of your pot
Turn up the flame & bring to the Boil
Turn down the heat to a low flame, put the lid on the pan and simmer the soup broth for 30 minutes.  Take the pot off of the heat and remove the lid.... Get a whiff of that, you're gonna love the aromas steaming out of your soup pot!

Killing Time...Waiting for the simmer-magic to happen!
Taste your yummy broth with a teaspoon, you shouldn't need to add anything else - if you want additional seasonings now is the time...  
Now, depending on your situation, location or kitchen equipment stock you can now chuck your soup into a food processor/blender, manually blend your soup or you can leave as is and have a chunky soup.  Personally, I like to blend it all together with a food processor.  Having just lived on the road for a while, I have made this soup and mashed it to varying consistencies (with random mashing tools).  In Egypt, I used a small milk jug to mash it so the soup was thick and lumpy.  In Greece, I used an old sterilise jam jar.  In Australia, I used to use a smoothie blender which makes the soup thick and velvety smooth (my favorite).  Now, WinGaz are staying at my sister's place and I'm trying really hard to get her (and her husband) into home cooking and baking - I've just roughly blended this soup using a potato masher and a baking whisk... With really positive results.

So, to manually do it start by giving your soup and broth a good seeing to with your masher - you'll need to put in some elbow grease if you diced your veggies into big chunks, but I like to rough chop into small chunks so this bit is a walk in the park.  Then whisk for a bit on low speed - you don't want to wear your soup.  After whisking, mash some more and repeat the process until you have a consistency your happy to put on the dinner table.

Mash, Mash, Mash...
Whisk, Whisk, Whisk...
 Mash, Mash, Mash some more...

Finally, you gently warm the soup through on the hob on low heat and serve.  

Gently warm your soup through
I like to garnish my soup with homemade pesto (I will blog on this at another time), but, keeping in tune with my current cut-backs and tightening of the old purse strings, I chose to use some left-over fresh Dill that I had used to garnish some potatoes for a stew, just a few days ago - Winnie and I had a giggle at the packaging for the Dill since it had "Product of Egypt" written on it!  I added a small garnishing of dill, and my sister's hubby located some Croutons (given in a work Xmas Hamper) and we got stuck in.

Soup simply garnished with fresh dill

Ok, now down to the numbers...

I used left over carrots, celery and dill.  I had vegetable stock cubes in the cupboard, and salt, pepper and paprika in those silly little jars.

I purchased the remaining ingredients at our local supermarket.  Winnie and I are on foot so to walk from my sister's house it takes around 90 minutes each way - so we're getting healthy with exercise, then eating my healthy soup to detox!!

The remaining ingredients costed as follows:

  • Garlic - to my horror, Tesco only had a jar of pre-peeled garlic cloves in brine: 99p
  • Butternut Pumpkin - 500g: £1.50
  • Market Value Onions - 3 pack: 61p
  • Fresh Sage - again it seems only pre-packed fresh herbs in small quantities: 80p

The Total cost for this meal came to a whopping £3.90 - which isn't too bad.  For Less than 5 GBP I made a soup, that is very healthy, very filling and enough to serve 6 adults with a generous portion.  Since my sister was out on a work's Xmas Dinner, Winnie and I ate the soup with Marcus (my sister's husband)...who finished his first bowl and said:
"...I think I'm gonna have to have another bowl..."
So, we all had a second greedy portion and made the final decision to clean the lot up between the three of us!  Which was awesome!

Feel good factor 10, and this soup is top of the class (with no left overs!)... 

Let's see how tomorrow's dish goes down with our hungry family.  How did your soup go?  I'd be interested to see how our lovely ETD readers' versions go.

Bon Apetite & Happy Cooking!

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