We are definitely at the turn of the seasons here in New York. Temperatures have dropped (although it’s still 18 deg), and I am wearing socks and jumpers. For the past two years, we have had an Indian summer, where there has been a sudden spate of warmth around Columbus Day. Well it’s Columbus Day on Monday and there’s no Indian summer outside! Instead it is cloudy and I am just about to leave for the long weekend. We are going to Shelter Island which is on Long Island and about as far away from the city as you can get without crossing the water into Connecticut. There are a few wineries out there and maybe the weather will be good enough to play in a boat.
When the weather gets colder, my mind turns to soup. For me, it was always lovely to make the first Scotch broth, or first leek and potato of the season. Grandma never wasted anything and soup was a wonderful way of using less than perfect vegetables and a cheap and usually healthy lunch or starter. I haven’t finished my diet, but I’ve lost 74 lbs now (about 34 kg) and I think I may have another 7-10 lbs to go. It’s all a bit hard because my shape has changed because of the working out, and I said at the very beginning that I didn’t want my face to look scrawny. I am quite vain (about what, you may well ask), and I’m also at the border line where too much weight lost and I’ll look like a grandmother. I think that really what I need to do is tone what I have rather than lose too much more. Anyway, my inclination is to slowly reintroduce carbs but to keep on working out and see what happens. How did I start talking about losing weight? Well soup to me means at least one crusty roll, or croutons, or a Cheddar sandwich on the side, and it’s quite nice to think that these are becoming possible again.
As I think of soup, New York is slowly but surely turning orange in anticipation of Halloween. I still find it interesting that the Celtic feast of Samhain was brought over, adopted, changed and became this huge festival. There are special sweets for Halloween, many shops have pumpkins outside and there are so many costumes for sale! Last year we had a Halloween pop up shop underneath this block. This year it’s been replaced by a Fairway supermarket so at least I don’t have to see those horrendous vampire baby dolls. As it turned out, Halloween last year was cancelled in this bit of New York because of Tropical Storm Sandy and the resultant loss of power.
Anyway today’s recipe combines my love of soup with Halloween and is Pumpkin and Chilli Soup. Pumpkins can be hard work to chop, so feel free to substitute butternut squash which is marginally easier to prepare.
Pumpkin and Chilli Soup
- 2 kg pumpkin
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1 tsp crushed dried chilli peppers, plus extra to serve
- 2 leeks, thinly sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 parsnip, chopped
- 3 cm fresh root ginger, grated
- 1 litre vegetable or chicken stock (I use vegetable)
Pre-heat the oven to Gas Mark 6 / 200 deg C / 400 F. Cut the pumpkin in half. Remove the seeds and fibre, then slice each half into four slices and put into a roasting tin. Use 1 tbsp olive oil and brush onto each slice. Season and sprinkle the chilli peppers on top too. Roast for 20 mins (until soft and slightly burnt – note the ‘slightly’). Cool and then removed flesh from skin.
Whilst the pumpkin is roasting, heat the remaining 2 tbsp oil in a large pan. Cook the leeks and garlic until soft and translucent. Add the parsnip and ginger and cook for another 3-5 minutes. Pour in the stock and bring to the boil.
Turn down and simmer for about 20 mins (when the parsnip is tender). Stir in the cooked pumpkin and check seasoning.
Cool the soup before either liquidising or using a hand blender. Return to pan and heat through. Serve with some of the extra crushed chillis on top.