When the trashed greenhouse is waiting for you to get your ACT together, the weather is foul and you just don’t fancy dragging yourself out and up the hill to the allotment I’ve found time spent in the kitchen satisfies – as does soup, aka potage au potiron.
Thank you for all your messages of support, it means the world to me and I know having friends like you guys is precious. How can I thank you? A start would be inviting you all to share a bowl of soup with me. Imagine sitting down to lunch with you all – that would be one hell of a lunch party!!
The recipe comes from Jane Grigson who in turn snaffled the idea from Orléanais region. That’s the way with recipes, they are once tasted, later tested and promptly passed on. A bit like the naming of pumpkins; we start out in Central America where pumpkins originate from but move to Europe for a modern day definition – the word pumpkin originating from the Greek “Pepon” which roughly translates as large melon (more of melon’s later). The French later adapted the word Pepon to Pompon, the British changed the French Pompon to Pumpion and the Americans changed it to Pumpkin. So where does the Potiron come from – the modern day catch all French for winter squash. There’s time travel in international language for you!
Back to the Greek for large melon – have you ever cut into a pumpkin and smelt the flesh – it smells of melon, sweet and honey-like and yet when cooked not a trace of melon remains. The Greeks knew what they were on to.
I’m using Crown Prince, an Australian Blue pumpkin, whose flesh is firm, dense and bright orange, the skin thin and the seeds large, it cooks well and holds shape, isn’t stringy, stores well and simply put is the best pumpkin variety that I grow. If I could only grow one variety of pumpkin it would be Crown Prince – reliable, a good size and tasty, remember the most important element is the taste! It needs room to grow as it sends out long vines, I’ve seen them reach 20 feet, they produce 2 or 3 good sized fruit per plant (so not overly prolific) usually weighing in at a respectable 1.5kg. Am I overselling it? Probably.
This one was, admittedly a bit of a brute to cut into – it took a sharp heavy knife, a few attempts and a lot of pressure to cut into it. Peeled and de-seeded it morphed into Pumpkin Bread, Savoury Pumpkin Pie, Pumpkin Cake and of course the leftover parts went into soup.
For a change I used a recipe and I’m glad I did. Leeks paired with Turnip cosied up nicely with pumpkin – smooth, satisfying with a hint of leek and not an over powering sense of pumpkin. For me the surprise was the lack of seasonings, I’d normally load a soup up with lots of herbs, garlic and anything that take my fancy on the day. I resisted the urge to veer from the recipe and in doing so learnt that not everything needs garlic or white wine adding to it to “enhance” the flavour.
I decorated the soup for the photo with a few snips of fresh chives from the garden. The chives are the first herbs to make a re-appearance, a welcome sight after the rains of winter. The fresh green shoots lighting up the bare earth and delighting my tastebuds once brought indoors into the kitchen.
Potage au Potiron
Simple French Pumpkin Soup by Jane Grigson
serves 4 as a starter
- 20g butter
- 1 leek, sliced
- 100g turnip diced
- 350g pumpkin diced
- 3/4 litre of vegetable stock
- 1 tbs crème fraiche
- Salt and pepper
- 1 tbs chopped chives
- On a low heat melt the butter in a large pan
- Add the sliced leek and gently soften it in the butter *approx. 10 to 15 minutes)
- When the leek is soft and the turnip and pumpkin and continue to cook and soften the vegetables (another 5 to 10 minutes)
- Add the vegetable stock and bring to a simmer, partially cover the pan, turn the heat down and cook for 30 to 40 minutes until the pumpkin is very soft
- Blend the mixture to a fine smooth soup
- If the soup seems a little thick add some water to thin it down (a bit at a time)
- Return the soup to the heat, add a generous tablespoon of crème fraiche and mix it in
- Check the seasonings and add salt and pepper as needed
- Pour into bowls and sprinkle some chopped chives on op