Our friend Peter Wheeler gives us the gift of two pumpkins from his garden at Hangng Rock, just 10km from us, but at 1200m elevation, 600m higher than Nundle. Pumpkins are a contentious issue for our eldest son. If there is a hint of pumpkin on his plate, even a smudge of pumpkin flesh on a fork or knife, dinner can start with tears. Consequently while we used to grow about 50 pumpkins a year, now the only pumpkins we grow are self seeded and the frequency that we eat pumpkin has dropped off. You can understand. I miss it. How good is roast pumpkin?
When Peter delivers our pumpkins I think "Pumpkin soup". I am the only member of our family who eats pumpkin soup. I enjoy it so much that I will make it for one, perhaps with leftovers for the days following or to freeze. My go-to pumpkin soup recipe is a much thumbed copy of A Year of Slow Food by David and Gerda Foster, published by Duffy & Snellgrove in 2001. It is one of the first books I read in the tree change genre, except that David and Gerda are surely locals now with 25 years of living largely off the land back in 2001. It is also one of my introductions to the concept of slow food. Foster writes ' Slow Food is authentic tucker, neither fast nor fancy. It does not relate to fashion, which it holds in a defensive contempt. It is farm food, prepared only from the freshest of fresh ingredients, that tastes as food should taste, that tastes as food did taste, in the days when rural Australians grew their own, before they had a choice.'
If you ever see A Year of Slow Food in a book store snaffle it immediately. Even better, buy two copies and give one to your best friend. Here's their recipe.
Spicy Pumpkin Soup (serves 4)
Ingredients: 1-2 tbsp butter, 1 tsp spices (dried or sliced chilli, ginger or curry powder), 1kg unpeeled pumpkin*, scrubbed and cubed, 1 tsp nutmeg, 2 large onions, chopped, salt to taste, 2 medium potatoes, scrubbed and cubed, sour cream, chives, 1 1/2 litres stock (either miso stock, about 1 1/2 tbsp in 1 1/2 litres hot water or homemade stock).
Fry onions until golden. Add potatoes to the frying pan, frying until slightly brown. At this point you can add other vegetables. Try parsnips.
Add the pumpkin, followed by the stock and spices and bring to the boil in a saucepan. Simmer till the vegetables are soft. Serve chunky or, if you prefer, puree in the blender or with a stick blender.
Add a dash of sour cream or yoghurt and a sprinkle of chopped chives before serving, along with oven-toasted bread that has been sliced, buttered and rubbed with garlic.
*In keeping with the slow food philosophy I like to replace cubed fried pumpkin with wedges of pumpkin roasted in a moderate oven until very soft (30-45 mins). I serve the soup with a sprinkle of sumac and toasted flat bread.