31 December 2012

That moment

Dear Reader, I so hope you had a loving Christmas and a lot of good food to go with it. Did you? I made a ham roast with maple syrup bacon crust, there was a lot of it, and it was nice. I didn't know a girl can eat a multi-pound ham joint practically by herself. Anthony caught a stomach bug and spent Christmas Eve squarely sick, poor thing, so I had to do all the eating. No complaints. But quick, quick, 2012 is nearly out of the door, it goes so fast, I can barely believe it, not enough time for a lengthy talk now, no way, the boom-booms of early fireworks can already be heard all over the city. And what did I do with these twelve short months? Well, yes, I finally went to see my family after a hundred, no, two and a half years of apart-ness; I put strawberries in my spaghetti; I got married. There was a crayon of every color in the box, the darkest one included. But digress shall I now not, need to keep it brief, yes sir.

I was on my bicycle pedaling hurriedly to work the other day -- I think Thursday after Christmas that was -- at an ungodly hour of 6 a.m. I dodged however little traffic there was on the roads at the time, whooshing past red-eyed traffic lights like rules are not for me. Running a light at one intersection, I noticed something that caught me in my tracks. The yellow round face of the moon hung so low it seemed to be resting in the crooked arms of the barren trees. The Rijksmuseum's spikes glistened in the inky sky in the distance, the whole building all of a sudden looking like a castle. The soft, golden lights strewn around a towering pine tree ahead of me swayed gently in the wind. I go the same route almost every day, yet I never saw anything like it before. The darkness, the moon, the lights, the trees, all seemed so out of this world for a second, as if an illustration from a fairy tale book came to life -- or I felt like I was in the book. Every year a child in me expects to see a glimpse of magic at Christmas and New Year's, and that moment, in the middle of a city, was that. It enchanted me. It's been days since then, and I'm still thinking about that view and about that feeling. Where am I driving at? Here: I wish us all for the nascent year a swath of breathtaking moments in life's everyday-ness. That and time and insight to notice them all.

Happy New Year, Dear Reader. Happy 2013.

As for today's recipe, well, it's a soup, but a very good soup, worth to be talked about on New Year's Eve. 

Roast Pumpkin Soup with Cinnamon

Adapted from Moro East, by Sam and Sam Clark
Yield: (small) 4 servings

It's a little firework of a soup, in that it's exciting and familiar at the same time. There is pumpkin that you roast first to lay upon it more flavor. Then, there are spices: cinnamon and dried chili. And then, there is a whole lot of fresh cilantro (coriander). In between, there are deeply caramelized onions and a swatch of garlic. The ingredients and flavors are all usual kitchen dwellers, but together and in the form of a soup they speak an exotic dialect.

I use much less cinnamon than prescribed in the original, because, in my humble opinion, you don't need as much as half a teaspoon of cinnamon in your soup.
I like it served plain, maybe with a sprinkling of toasted pine nuts and a scattering of more fresh cilantro, but you can up the game and drown a dollop of good-quality Greek yogurt (thinned with a bit of milk) in your bowl. Go ahead, suit yourself.

600 g (1 1/3 pounds) peeled and seeded pumpkin or squash (equivalent to about 1 kg/2 pounds unprepared pumpkin), cut into 3-cm (1-inch) cubes
6 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, halved and thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1/8 tsp fresh ground cinnamon
a pinch of crushed dried chili
1 medium potato (about 150 g or 1/3 pound), peeled and cut into 2-cm (1-inch) cubes
1 1/4 L (5 cups) vegetable or chicken stock, preferably hot
1 medium bunch (about 30 g/1 ounce) of fresh cilantro, coarsely chopped (stems and all)
Fresh lemon juice, to taste
Salt and pepper, to taste

Warm the oven to 200 C (390 F).

Toss the pumpkin with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, a healthy pinch of salt and some black pepper, and spread it out in a roasting tin. Roast for about 20-30 minutes, until very soft and starting to color. Remove out of the oven and set aside.

Heat the remaining 4 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the onion and a pinch of salt; cook for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onion begins to turn nice and golden. If the onion browns too fast, scale the heat down a notch. Add the garlic, cinnamon and chili, and fry for another minute to release their flavor. Add the roasted pumpkin, the potato and the stock, and bring to a gentle simmer. Cook for about 20 minutes or until the potato is soft. Remove from the heat and throw in the cilantro.

With a handheld mixer or in a food processor, blitz the soup until smooth. Check for seasoning and adjust to taste. You may want to add a tiny spritz of fresh lemon juice to the lot to brighten things up a bit.

1 comment:

J said...

That looks nice.