Whenever the temperature drops, I get a craving for soup. In our house, my sister is the best at making soups and my personal favourite is her tomato soup. Once I was in the kitchen with her, busy gossiping and was surprised to see her add different vegetables like carrots and beans to the soup. Of course, until then my idea of a tomato soup was just tomatoes and garlic. But, oh did it taste good! She strained the cooked vegetables and spiced the broth with a bit of crushed garlic and crushed pepper. As it swirled around in my mouth, I felt it warm my soul. Recently, the temperatures dropped to -14 C here in Etna, and I spent all day thinking about my sister and her soup. Incidentally, it was pouring back home in Madras, and I could almost picture her sitting by the balcony with Vish, sipping yummy soup, and watching her lush plants enjoy the rain.
By evening, I gave into my craving and drove up to the local co-op. If I was unsure about which soup to make on my way there, my mind was made up when I reached. The co-op made sure everyone knew that fall was here with their beautiful display of pumpkins. I picked up a small Kabocha (green) pumpkin and some garlic to roast with it. This is one of my favourite soups.
Until not long ago, I hated pumpkins, but I started thinking about them again after talking to my sister. Among us, my sister is the health nut. Always looking over my shoulder to see how much sugar I’m adding to the brownies and frowning each time I reach for a pack of fried chips. Between us we have this phenomenon that occurs. It starts with me detesting all the things she likes (Idlis, Rasam, the U2 song ‘Stuck in a moment’) and years later coming to love them as much, if not more than her. We’ve tested this theory over and over again and the only time it hasn’t worked is with ‘The Good Earth’ by Pearl S Buck. Well, I say it hasn’t worked, my sister says it’s only a matter of time before I succumb and start loving the book.
But with pumpkins, my sister was right. Pumpkins tastes so good in soups! It is naturally creamy and full of body that you don't need any cream or thickener. And there are so many different varieties that you could make into soup. Each time I go shopping at Hannaford’s, I pick up a different kind of pumpkin and try experimenting with the recipes. This time when I made soup, I decided to roast some garlic along with it. I love me some roasted garlic and given the chance, I’ll add it to anything!
Apart from the taste, I love making this soup as it is such a pretty picture. Pieces of green and orange glistening in oil, dressed in herbs, looking so beautiful and inviting. Just looking at the colours, makes you feel all warm inside. I love this first step for two reasons. One, given my hand-eye coordination, it’s a challenge to cut up the pumpkin without accidentally chopping my wrist off, and I welcome the challange. Two, as the pumpkin and garlic roast, my kitchen smells incredible. Sometimes, I open the oven pretending to check on the pumpkins, but really, I just want to let the smell into the kitchen.
You’ll know that the pumpkin is roasted when it offers no resistance to an inserted knife. This takes about 30-45 minutes. While the pumpkin is cooling, melt some butter in a saucepan and saute onions until they are soft and translucent. I normally add some spices and herbs at this stage. As everyone might know, pumpkin and cinnamon go really well. Another spice that goes really well with this soup is nutmeg. Skin the pumpkin and add the flesh to the saucepan. Add some water and bring it to simmer.
The last step which is blending the soup, I recommend doing in two or three stages. While it may seem like they all fit into a blender, you’ll end up adding a lot of water/stock so it will increase in volume. I learnt this the hard way where the soup was too thick and my blender was overflowing. You could also use a hand held blender, but again work in stages. It helps blend the soup to a smooth, creamy consistency.
Pass this through a fine mesh and reheat until it simmers. Garnish with a coriander leaf. To best enjoy this soup, I suggest you find a cozy corner by the window and slurp away. You can find the complete recipe here.