Spiced Pumpkin Soup

It’s that time of year again. Time to bust out the coat, scarves and gloves, turn the central heating on, curl up into a ball and eat warm comforting food. I love this time of year. It makes me feel homely.  A time to use hearty, comforting recipes to metaphorically wrap up warm in. With an arsenal of seasonal vegetables acting as the coat, hat scarf and gloves, time to get as snug as a bug in a rug. Apples, pears, beetroot, turnips, carrots, butternut squash, pumpkin, oh my! The list goes on.

I have recently moved from my native land to Istanbul, a last minute move that saw us packing up our life within a week and flying out to this most interesting of places. The food here is amazing and deserving of a dedicated post, it is hard to resist the temptation to eat out daily when it is so damn cheap. A carnivores dream.

Eating in has been another matter entirely. Our new home lacks my weapon of choice, the oven. I have had to adjust to cooking everything we eat on the hob, getting creative to avoid culinary boredom. Disheartened, my blog has been neglected because of this, even though I have to say, I have been doing more than making do, coming up with some rather good dishes. And I do say so myself.

The weekly shop has been a challenge. Converting the exchange rate in my head to work out what is value for money (I have always been a thrifty shopper), working with the ingredients that they have and those that they don’t has been a challenge. In the UK our diverse culture is reflected in our food and our supermarkets, you can pretty much get anything you could possibly dream of from all corners of the globe. I have found shopping here pretty limited compared with what I am used to, but perhaps it is just me mentally limiting myself, looking for the familiar and coming back with chicken. Every time.

The fresh produce on the other hand, is wonderful and reasonably priced. You can guess my elation to find a healthy amount of peeled, chopped and pre-prepared pumpkin for just under one pound sterling. A steal.

I am ashamed to say before this I had never tried pumpkin, or at least not in my adult life, so this soup was  made according to my usual formula for butternut squash soup, lots of nice spices to balance the sweet flavour of the squash.

Usually I would roast the pumpkin in the oven with olive oil and two gloves of garlic (in its skin) and would recommend this for those endowed with an oven. Nothing beats the taste of sweet, oven roasted garlic.

As with all things like this I didn’t use precise measurements for the spices. I just throw in and alter and taste as I go. I have given approximate measurements, tweak as necessary.

Spiced Pumpkin Soup

Pack of pre- preparedPumpkin

1 1/2 tsp Ground Coriander

1 1/2 tsp Cinamon

2 tsp Ground Ginger

1 tsp Chili Flakes

1 Chicken Stock Cube

1 tsp Dried Thyme

1 Onion (sliced)

1 Clove of Garlic (chopped)

1 tbsp Butter

Salt and Pepper to taste

Boiling Water (enough to cover and to add later according to the desired thickness).

Melt the butter in the pan. Add the onions and cook on a lowish heat until the onions are translucent and emitting lovely smells. Add garlic and cook for a couple of minutes. Add pumpkin, water, stock cube and spices. Let it bubble, turn down to a medium heat and cover. Cook for around 20mins or until the pumpkin is tender. Blend. Taste. Add more spices if necessary (I kept it on the heat and covered for another 5 mins to incorporate my preference for this soup is to have ginger as the predominating spice). Enjoy with crusty bread.

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Soup is a great way to ingest goodness, pumpkin with its beta-carotene (an important anti-oxidant that is converted to Vitamin A in the body), vitamin B, vitamin C and calcium to name but a few is no exception.

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Sun, Sea and Spritzer

I have been absent without leave not through a lazy lack of blogging, but through a real absence from the UK for a two week teaching stint in Northern Italy.

La Spezia

La Spezia

As interesting as the food and eating habits have been I have merely been far too tired to do anything other than teach, plan and slot in the odd visit to here and there in those golden snatches of free time not spent sleeping. Not to mention my lack of a computer and limited wireless connectivity. Luckily being backwards with my choice of mobile technology I can freely type this post on the qwerty keypad on my phone. This post is brought to you courtesy of Blackberry (or not as the bloody thing would not let me post it for some odd reason but here it is, regurgitated from my drafts folder).

The aforementioned moments of freedom have consisted of visitations to some of the most beautiful, awe inspiring sights in the world. Italy of course being a place of flagrant natural beauty, you do not have to go out of your way to find something worth seeing, unless visiting  mediocre Milano. In fact, merely waking up here in beautiful La Spezia and looking out of the window instils one of the purest feelings of joy known to humankind, the philosophical acknowledgment that you are alive and truly living in a beautiful world. Something that one often takes for granted in industrial Birmingham.

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Anyway, the whole point of this post and something worth mentioning in my food blog before I get back and write up a backlog of recipes, is the much deserved after work aperitivo in the form of the delightfully refreshing Spritzer. This drink is according to a colleague alike the Campari but thankfully less bitter, I believe made from Aperol (something not so easy to come by back home). Something to be enjoyed after a hard day of the cattle herding or crowd controlling kindly given the euphemism of teaching. For 6 euros each we were not only blessed with a huge glass of the stuff, it came with an accompaniment of snacks and light bites. Nuts, crisps, olives, foccacia, fries and not to mention the classic fish finger, seemingly thrown in as an afterthought as the waiter brings this out last, but certainly not least.

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Quite bizarrely (to my obviously ignorant English brain) this is all brought out before the drink, which makes its way over to us after an expectant and impatient wait. A salty fix to make the palate all the more ready for the Spritz to come? Who knows, but a pleasant surprise to apparent ignorant brits who only bargained for a cheeky after work Spritz. Reminiscent of the free tapas with alcoholic beverage offered in Madrid.

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So for all who choose to venture to idyllic Italy for work or for pleasure be aware of this thrifty, refreshing beverage made only sweeter by the food that accompanies it.