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
Method:
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.  
Method:
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.  

Fashion and Fishcakes

There was a time not so very long ago when fishcakes were ubiquitous on menus across all the land.  From gastropub to chain restaurant, hell, even in fast food joints- you couldn’t move for the dainty little fried rounds.   And of all of those, the Thai version, laced with chillies and coriander, was by far the most popular. 

But fishcakes have have fallen out of favour and all but disappeared from any establishment now.  Gone, like smock tops, out of fashion to be replaced by scallops and black pudding, rillettes and toast or ham hock and split peas. 

I was a fan of smock tops- they were both practical and comfortable. I’ve always liked fishcakes too, especially if the home-made kind accompanied by a crunchy, lime-dressed salad.  They are tasty, filling and cheap to make as you can bulk out the fish with spuds and greenery.  So, I say to you, forget fashion- make fishcakes. 

Thai Fishcakes
serves 2 with leftovers

You will need:

250g salmon fillets (about 2 small ones)
2 large potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
1 tbsp fish sauce
1 red chili, chopped
couple of cm fresh ginger, grated
handful fresh coriander, chopped
2 small egg
salt, pepper
vegetable oil
juice and zest of 1 lime
lime and coriander to serve

 Method:

1.  Heat the oven to 190 degrees centigrade.  Drizzle the salmon with the lime juice and season with salt and pepper.  Wrap in tin foil and place in the oven for about 20 minutes- the exact time will depend on the thickness of your fillets, so keep an eye on them.  Too long in the oven will make for some pretty dry fishcakes.

2.  Meanwhile,  put a large pan of salted water on to boil.  Drop in your spuds and leave to simmer until soft and completely cooked through.

3.  Place the fish sauce, chili, ginger, coriander and lime zest in a large bowl.  Add one of the eggs and mix well.

4.  Once the salmon is cooked, open up the foil parcels and leave to cool slightly- you don’t want the heat from the fish cooking the egg.

5.  Drain the spuds and roughly mash them with a fork- it doesn’t matter if there are a few chunks left.  Leave to cool for a bit as well.

6.  Flake the salmon into the bowl and then add the mashed spuds.  Season generously with salt and pepper and mix to combine all the ingredients.

7.  You should have enough for 6 small cakes- dived the mixture up and roll into balls, flattening slightly.

8.  Crack the remaining egg in a bowl and whisk with a fork and brush over and under the fishcakes.  Heat some oil in a non-stick frying pan and then carefully drop the cakes into the pan, lowering the heat.  They may well be a bit sticky, but they will come together in the end.  Do three at a time and keep an eye on them, moving them about the pan so they don’t stick to the bottom.  Flip after about five minutes and cook on the other side until golden brown.

9.  Serve with scattered coriander, lime wedges and a crunchy salad.  I made mine with radishes, spinach, carrots, spring onion and a dressing made from lime juice, sugar, chopped chili, fish sauce and sesame oil.