Happy Thanksgiving

As I’ve mentioned before, I do love a pumpkin.  Few vegetables signify a season quite as well.  And, yes, I know this may in part be to our ever-expanding americanization, but I don’t mind so much in this instance.  I know that the Yankee abduction of our seasons and traditions over here in Europe is often no more than a marketing ploy, but I’ll happily buy into a pumpkin fad.  And anyway, they are the ultimate frugal veg because you can get so much out of them- a bargain rather than a frivolous, unnecessary splurge.  So take that, Hollywood.  

Although I have to admit that for me, Autumn would remind me of the States, even if the shops weren’t trying to sell me Halloween (and, at some delis in Notting Hill, even Thanksgiving).  I think partly this is because when I lived in New York I was so struck by the way the city unfolded in shades of terracotta, yellow and umber.   But, mostly, having gone to American schools when I was young, the autumn holidays made quite an impression.  I loved it.  The dressing up, the crafting, the cooking, the excitement and, if I was very, very lucky, an invitation to Thanksgiving dinner from an American friend.  I was so impressed by the ritual of it all and loved the strange, exotic foods- cranberries, sweet potatoes (occasionally studded with mini marshmallows!), the enormous-seeming turkey and, of course, pumpkin pie.  

So every year, I buy a pumpkin and I cook with it.  This year, I managed to get three decent recipes and meals from 1 medium sized pumpkin.  Here are two with the final one to follow.   

Spicy Thai Pumpkin Soup

Serves 4
You will need:
1 tbsp vegetable oil
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 red chilli, half diced finely and half sliced
1 lemongrass, central part only, finely chopped
1 large handful coriander, leaves and stems separated and roughly chopped.  
1 thumb of ginger, grated1/2 pumpkin, peeled and cut into rough chunks
2 onions, chopped
1 litre chicken stock
200ml coconut cream
1.  Heat the vegetable oil in a large saucepan.  Fry off the garlic, the finely diced chilli, lemongrass, coriander stems and ginger until fragrant and aromatic.  Add the onions and fry until softened, then add the pumpkin and stir to coat in the onion and spice mixture. Add the chicken stock bring to the boil.  Simmer until the pumpkin has completely softened, about 15 minutes.  
2.  Blend the soup with a stick blender until completely smooth.  Add all but 2 tbsp of the coconut cream and heat through, simmering for a little longer if not quite thick enough.  To serve, pour into bowls and stir through a little bit of the coconut cream.  Top with the sliced chilli and coriander leaves.  

This recipe is adapted from Ottolenghi’s book Plenty.   It would make a delicious side dish to accompany some spicy grilled chicken, or as a meal of its own with some quinoa and leaves.  
Pumpkin roasted with cardamom and tahini dressing
Serves 2
You will need:
3 cardamom pods
1/4 pumpkin, cut into wedges
2tbsp olive oil
For the tahini dressing:
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp tahini
1 lime, zested and juiced
1 green chilli, sliced finely
1 small bunch coriander, roughly chopped.  
1. Preheat the oven to 200C.  Bash the cardamom pods in a pestle and mortar until you have something you have a coarse powder.  Place the pumpkin wedges on a baking sheet and add the oil, cardamom and season generously.  Toss to completely coat, then bake in the oven for 40-45 minutes, until the pumpkin is soft and golden.  
2. To make the dressing, stir together the olive oil, tahini, lime zest, about 1 tbsp of lime juice and some salt and pepper.  Taste to adjust the seasoning and lime juice.  It should be about he same consistency as plain yoghurt so it seems very thick, lighten with a little water.  Serve the pumpkin wedges arranged on a large plate, drizzled with the dressing and scattered with the coriander and sliced chilli.  Serve with some additional lime, if desired.  

Chilli for chilly times

The Ultimate Vegetable Chilli
I’m loving making this at the moment.  It has been thrown together on several occasions to feed hungry musicians rehearing in our flat and provides a warming, healthy bowl of goodness when it is cold and dark and dank outside.  Don’t be put off by the long list of ingredients.  They are all easy to come by and the recipe really doesn’t require much effort, just a bit of chopping.   This makes for an absolutely huge pot of chilli, so it’s really good for feeding a big group of people or left overs can be frozen.  It is packed with nutrients from all the veg and protein from the beans, so it’s perfect if you have overdone it a bit this season and want something to set you on the right track in the New Year.   I also defy anyone who eats this to tell me they miss the meat.  You won’t.   
You will need:

Olive oil
2 onions, chopped
3 mixed peppers
1 large carrot
1 courgette
1 aubergine
1 apple
1 tin of lentils (or about 300g dried lentils)
1 tin kidney beans
1 tin cannellini beans
2 tins chopped tomatoes
350 ml water from a recently boiled kettle.
2 tsp oregano
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp chili
1 tsp salt
Get out a large saucepan and put on a medium heat, adding a glug of olive oil.  Fry the onions until soft, stirring regularly.
Add the chopped up peppers, carrot, courgette, aubergine and apple, stir regularly for about 10 minutes until the vegetables have started colour and cook.
Add the chopped tomatoes and boiling water, giving it a good stir.  Mix together all of the spices and herbs before adding to the pot.  Finally, add the drained beans and lentils, reduce the heat and let simmer gently for about 20-25 minutes. 
Season to taste before serving with rice, guacamole, lime wedges and chopped coriander.