5th November
Bonfire of the Pumpkins
Pumpkins Galore

Remember, remember, the fifth of November. Pumpkins and butternut squash
Aline my cute landlady and Flora my cute sailing buddy were good enough to help out with road testing some elements of my upcoming Pumpkin Palooza dinner party.
To which neither were invited - sorry girls!

I had a couple of soups to try, along with a likely-looking pumpkin-pie alternative: a pumpkin soufflé! I found the soufflé recipe online, along with a suggested serving of bourbon and molasses sauce which I decided to body-swerve, plumping for another round of my leftover mango sorbet instead. That will be positively its last outing, Flora, honest!

So two deliberately un-Thai-style soups were on the table I often find my pumpkin soups slipping inexorably into a resemblance of Thai green curry - a vegetarian Cannellini and Kale Soup (now with added pumpkin) or a chunky and very un-vegetarian Salt Cod, Chickpea and Chorizo Soup (also with pumpkin).

They were both excellent, to be honest, but I decided to go with the fishy, meaty one for the main event - it seemed more autumnal, slightly more substantial, plus it looked really good and I wasn't feeding any pesky tarians.

And so down to my local Fucking Supermarket™ to buy a cheap chicken to make stock with, noticing as I did so the outrageous price of ready-made fresh stock. To get more than a litre of stock it's actually cheaper to buy a chicken, plus then you also have a chicken-load of cheap, watery, hormone-laden chicken to eat up.
Hmmm, actually buying that stock is starting to look more attractive...

Cannellini, Kale and Pumpkin Soup
soup veg vegan
The puréed beans give this soup a very creamy texture and my pumpkin addition makes it a bright orange colour - perfect for Autumn. Although this was quite a tasty soup I wasn't over-impressed with the kale, though I'm often not. It seemed a bit on the tough and tasteless side and it rapidly turns an unappetising brown colour making it less attractive after reheating. I found my salting approach helped with this.

I had to use ordinary kale, but I've subsequently found that Sainsbury's stock Cavolo Nero (aka Tuscan Kale) which I'd like to try instead - it might be an improvement.
I'm happy to report that it is better with the Cavolo Nero - it has much more flavour than our northern kale. It does tend to be more stalk than leaf though, so only remove the thickest, woodiest stems or you'll have no cabbage left!

Serves 6

Grind the fennel seeds and the red pepper with a teaspoon of salt to powder.
Thoroughly wash the kale, cut away the stalks (you can use them like the bay leaves to add flavour while cooking the beans if you like) and slice cross-ways about 1cm wide.
It helps to break down the kale a little if you mix in a teaspoon of salt (don't overdo it) after slicing and leave the salt to work it's magic while you prepare the soup.

Heat a couple of tablespoons oil in a medium Dutch oven or a large pot over medium heat. Cook onions and carrot until just softened, about 5 minutes. Season with the ground spices and fry. Stir in the minced garlic and thyme. Cook for 1 minute.

Drain and rinse cannellini beans. Add to Dutch oven with stock or water and bay leaves. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low. Simmer, covered, until beans are tender, about 45 minutes. Let cool slightly. Discard bay leaves.

Cut the pumpkin in half, scrape out the insides and set aside the cleaned seeds for roasting. Lay cut side down on a lightly oiled oven tray and roast at Gas Mark 5 for 20-30 minutes until softened and the skin starts to separate from the flesh. Peel and cut into chunks and add to the pot.

Working in batches, purée soup in a blender until smooth, transferring it to a clean pot as you work.

Bring the soup to a simmer. Stir in the kale and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Simmer until the kale is tender, about 15 minutes. Season.
Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons oil in a small skillet over medium-low heat. Cook sliced garlic, stirring often, until crisp and golden, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer garlic to a plate using a slotted spoon. Reserve garlic oil.

Divide soup among 6 bowls. Garnish with garlic chips, and drizzle with garlic oil.
Really nice, though it's definitely improved by resting before serving - I find the kale can be rather tasteless until it is thoroughly wilted into the soup.
Don't leave it too long though - the kale can turn quite brown after a while.

I thought that for that special meal you could bake the puréed soup and the kale in a hollowed-out pumpkin in the oven.

Pumpkin Soufflé
dessert veg
The online recipe calls for baking the soufflés at Gas 6, but I found they were starting to burn at that temperature - Gas 5 worked better for me. Also as online commenters have mentioned you could easily increase the quantity of pumpkin to 1 cup and reduce the eggs to 8 - I did have plenty of leftover, plus it might make them less meringuey.
I skipped the advertised Bourbon-Molasses sauce (which sounded a bit sickly and anyway I preferred the idea of Bourbon-Maple) and went for a refreshing sorbet instead.
  • The pumpkin mixture (without egg whites) can be made 1 day ahead and chilled.
  • Soufflés can be assembled 1 hour before baking and kept in freezer. And apparently bake just as well from frozen - which is a surprise!
  • Baked soufflés can be re-puffed if necessary in a 200°C/400°F oven 10 to 12 minutes (serve quickly, as they will deflate a little faster the second time around).

Makes 8

Purée your pumpkin - Just halve a small pumpkin, scoop out the innards and bake at Gas Mark 5 for 20-30 minutes until the insides are soft. I find a potato ricer is really handy for mashing the flesh - leave out any stringy bits.

Whisk together milk, cornstarch, spices, and 1 tablespoon granulated sugar in a small heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, whisking, then simmer, whisking, 2 minutes.

Remove from heat and whisk in pumpkin. Transfer to a large bowl and cool to room temperature.

Preheat oven to Gas Mark 6/200°C/400°F with rack in lower third. Butter 8 6oz ramekins and coat with granulated sugar, knocking out excess, then put in a large shallow baking pan.

Beat egg whites with salt in another large bowl using an electric mixer until they hold soft peaks. Add remaining ¾ cup granulated sugar a little at a time, beating, then beat until whites hold stiff, glossy peaks, 1 to 2 minutes more.

Fold one third of whites into cooled pumpkin mixture to lighten, then fold in remaining whites gently but thoroughly. Divide mixture among ramekins, mounding it. Sprinkle their tops with a little extra sugar to give them a bit of a crispy glaze.

Bake soufflés until puffed and golden, 18 to 20 minutes. Dust with confectioners sugar and serve immediately.
Not too bad - they certain rise enthusiastically enough, and the recipe is pretty bullet-proof, even when your egg whites refuse to whip up properly. The only trouble is that due to the lack of wheat flour the mixture is a little bit meringue-like rather than cakey and the tops are a bit leathery (hence the sprinkling of sugar prior to baking).

They went very nicely with a ginger-lime sorbet all the same.

Comments (0)

No comments yet!

Post a comment (Optional)
  • Allowed markup: <a> <i> <b> <em> <u> <s> <strong> <code> <pre> <p>
  • All other tags will be stripped, unless they are in a <pre> (use this for blocks of code)