Spicy Pumpkin and Pear Soup…and a little sewing

So, remember our pear tree? Yes, the one with an awful lot of pears on it. We’ve been really enjoying eating them in crumbles, purées, stewed but mainly au naturel and sometimes with cheese. Delicious. But they don’t store. I know, I tried it out. I spent ages wrapping a load up in newspaper and storing them somewhere cool and dark only to find a horrible, stinky mush a few days ago. Nasty.

Luckily we really did make the most of them and one of the dishes I made was a hearty soup using some of the crisper, under ripe pears left at the very end.

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Ingredients (serves 4 as a main course)

  • About 1kg of pumpkin or squash (peeled, seeded and cut into cubes)
  • 3 medium pears (peeled and cut into cubes)
  • 50ml olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon each of ground cumin and ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon of fresh ginger (peeled and grated)
  • 1 level teaspoon of hot chilli powder (or to taste)
  • 3 cloves of garlic (peeled and crushed)
  • 1 tin (400g) coconut milk
  • 1 litre vegetable stock
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Smoked pimenton to serve

(Inspired by a recipe from the book Economy Gastronomy)

Heat the oil and add the pumpkin. Fry on a medium heat until it starts to colour a little (you may need to do this in batches) then add the spices and garlic. Cook for a minute then add the pear, coconut milk and stock. Simmer for about 30 minutes, blend to a texture you enjoy (I used a stick blender) season to taste and serve with a sprinkle of smoked pimenton.

For any of you who are wondering what the heck I’ve been up to in the absence of great cooking facilities (and apart from house renovations), I decided to set myself up with a little winter project. I am hand making a patchwork quilt, following (sort of) a design pattern.

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Am really enjoying making the quilt top but may back out of hand quilting it myself. We’ll see.  Perhaps next year I’ll be eating this soup snuggled under my quilt!

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Braised Goat (or Lamb) with Squash and Red Wine

Finally we have had a small drop in temperatures and it looks as though rain may well be a real possibility in the next few days.  Me, a Chica who hates the cold and damp, breathing a sigh of relief at the thought of rain which is so badly needed for the olives, the fruit trees, the rivers.  What a long way I have come on my Andalucían journey!

Winter weather means warming winter food.  After having friends over recently, I was left with half a kilo of chopped goat which had not been cooked so I froze it for a rainy day. That rainy day came round and to make a change from the simple local way of cooking it with garlic, chilli, bay leaves, peppercorns and white wine I decided to make a stove top casserole.

We are still being supplied with squash by Big Man´s cousin and I wanted to use some of this too.  I also felt that if I “disguised” the squash slightly with lots of warming flavours, I might be able to persuade Big Man to enjoy it as much as me.  I think it worked, he ate it with gusto and even had seconds.  No leftovers for the dogs or to serve as tapas the next day with this dish!

Ingredients (to serve 2 if the meat has bones, 4 if it is boneless)

  • 500g chopped lamb or goat (use a cheap cut like neck which is full of flavour)
  • 500 squash or pumpkin, peeled and cut into 2cm cubes
  • About 5 fat cloves of garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 medium onion thinly sliced
  • ½ litre of lamb stock or use chicken stock plus a teaspoon of marmite or a beef stock cube
  • 2 glasses of red wine (or replace with stock if you prefer not to cook with alcohol)
  • 2 tsp of tomato purée
  • Salt and pepper
  • A sprig of rosemary, leaves removed and finely chopped
  • Olive oil for frying
  • About half a cup of flour
  • 1 teaspoon of mustard powder
  • 1 dried red chili crumbled (optional)

Mix the mustard powder with the flour and season and toss the cubs of meat in it. Fry the meat until slightly browned and remove from pan.

Add more oil if necessary and gently fry the onions, garlic and squash until the onion is soft and transparent.

Add the meat to the pan, pour over the stock and wine, and add the tomato purée, rosemary and chili (if using). Let it bubble for about 5 minutes then reduce the heat and cover.  Cook gently for about an hour and half until the meat is tender and the sauce thickened. Taste and adjust seasoning.

We ate this with some fried polenta, but it would also be great with rice or mashed potato and a glass of that lovely red wine you opened to put into the cooking sauce.

Split Pea & Squash Curry

Now that we seem to have caught up (vegetable-availability-wise) with everyone who was posting squash and pumpkin recipes back in the autumn, I am finally cooking lots of warming winter dishes which include this fantastic ingredient. Having said that, it´s not actually very cold here at the moment, but it is Janaury, so I feel justified in making wintery food.

Although we didn´t put on any extra kilos over Christmas, no one could ever accuse either me or Big Man of being under weight, so recipes which are healthier and packed with vegetables are perfect for us.

A mild flavoured curry was on my list – Big Man doesn´t like them hot, and I can always add a little dried chilli at the end to turn up the heat in my own portion.

Ingredients (to serve 4 as a hearty soup or more as a side dish)

  • 200g split yellow peas (the last of a stash bought over by visitors…so sad)
  • 500g squash peeled and cut into slices
  • 1 cup of tomato conserva or chopped tinned tomatoes
  • 1 onion peeled, halved and cut into thin slices
  • 1 head of garlic (you will be roasting this and only using half)
  • 2-3 cups of vegetable stock or water
  • 3 heaped teaspoons of your favourite curry mix (I usually make mine with ground turmeric, chilli, cumin, dried coriander, black pepper and cardamom seeds and then add a little fresh grated ginger when I cook)
  • 1 teaspoon of mustard seeds
  • 1 dried chilli crumbled (optional)
  • Oil for frying

Turn the oven onto a high setting and place the squash on a tray lined with foil. Sprinkle with salt and drizzle a little oil over.  Roast for about 30 minutes until soft and brown at the edges.  Put the garlic in at the same time, wrapped loosely in foil.

Start by dry frying the mustard seeds until they pop. Remove them from the pan. Add a little oil to your pan and fry the onion and garlic until they are soft, then add your curry powder and mustard seeds and fry until the lovely aromas start to come out, then add the split peas (or you could use lentils).  Now add the tomato conserva and 2 cups of the stock or water plus the crumbled chilli if using.

Cook gently until the split peas are almost soft (you may need to add more liquid, just keep an eye on them). Remove the squash and garlic from the oven and cut the squash into smaller bite sized chunks.  Add these to the split peas.  Pop half of the garlic cloves out of their skins and add to the curry. Mash the other half and cover with a little oil, it will keep for at least a week in the fridge and can be used in other dishes or dips.

Add a drop more liquid to the vegetables if necessary, cooking the curry for about 10 more minutes until everything is soft and cooked through.  You can mash some of the squash, garlic and split peas with the back of a wooden spoon, leaving some chunky.  Add salt, you´ll probably find it can take quite a lot, but the choice is yours. Eat as a thick soup or a side dish and it´s lovely served with rice or naan bread.

Delicious with a squeeze of lime juice and chopped coriander, but I didn´t have either of them so I just used lemon juice. If you like it even milder and more creamy, stir in a couple of big spoonfuls of thick creamy yogurt.

We had some leftovers, so the next day I added some more stock, yogurt and some finely chopped chard (you could use spinach, kale, cabbage) and warmed it through to make a delicious soup – I´m not sure which version I liked best!

Chunky Pumpkin and Vegetable Soup

Not so much a recipe as a prescription.  After the excesses of Christmas coupled with a bad stomach virus, it was time for a cleansing soup.

Like all the best soups it was made from whatever the fridge had available.  Having said that, we had some beautiful stock made from the carcass of one of our home bred chickens, a cabbage given to us by one of Big Man´s family and the star of the show, a beautiful Green Striped Cushaw Squash grown by Big Man´s lovely cousin Raphael.

Now, I´m not usually so knowledgeable about Squash (or should that be Squashes?) as I have even called it a pumpkin in the recipe title. It just so happened that Claire over at Promenade Plantings posted a gorgeous Winter Panzanella Salad recipe recently, and there showing off in a fabulous photo was MY pumpkin. Or squash.

I used about 400g of chopped squash, 2 medium potatoes peeled and cubed, 3 large carrots peeled and diced, an onion peeled and sliced, half a red pepper cut into chunks, 2 cloves of garlic peeled and thinly sliced and four large savoy cabbage leaves which I shredded finely. Along with the broth I also added a cup of tomato conserva. For a vegetarian version, use water or vegetable stock.

I sautéed the squash, carrots, pepper, onions and garlic for a few minutes in a little olive oil then seasoned with salt and pepper  and poured stock and tomato over to cover.  I bought it all to the boil and then reduced the heat to a simmer.  After about 10 minutes I added the potatoes and when the vegetables were all tender, I added the cabbage which I only cooked for a few minutes.

Instead of cheese or croutons, we served it with freshly squeezed lemon juice which gave it all a lovely lift.  Filling but comforting.  Perfect for a post Christmas detox. With a glass of wine of course!

For another gorgeous pumpkin soup recipe, check out Raymund at Ang Sarap who inspired me with his Chunky Beef and Pumpkin Soup.