Apparently the most important market for the food industry is so-called convenience food. People want to come home to a home-made dinner, but without the inconvenience of having to cook it. However, convenience food does not necessarily have to come out of a tin, or a plastic pack: sometimes the packaging is completely biodegradable. Take a pumpkin:
Not only does it come most amazingly wrapped, but you can even bake your pumpkin in its own skin! All that’s left to do is to spoon out the soft fflesh and discard the packaging, together with the seeds, in your compost bin. Mash, add a few spices and cream, and serve. How convenient is that?
The following recipe is a staple of Chilean cuisine: Crema de Zapallo, or Cream of Pumpkin Soup. In the markets in Santiago de Chile, the stallholders will cut up pumpkins of all sizes and colours, using long and dangerous-looking knives.
The closest match in terms of flavour and texture here in the UK seems to be the Japanese kabocha squash, but, frankly, any edible pumpkin or mix of pumpkins and squashes will do. We used (clockwise from left): an edible pumpkin, a harlequin squash, and the aforementioned kabocha.
This soup does not take long – ok, the pumpkins need an hour or more to cook, but they can be left to their own devices in the oven, so I don’t count that as prep time. From spooning out, mashing to plating takes less than 20 minutes. Now that’s my idea of a convenient dish!
Convenient Pumpkin Soup – Crema de Zapallo (serves 6)
- 2 kg pumpkin or squash
- 1 leek, only the white part
- 1 garlic clove
- 1 tbs vegetable oil
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp oregano
- 1 tsp sweet paprika powder
- parsley, finely chopped
- 100ml vegetable stock, depending on the consistency of the pumpkin
- 100ml milk
- 300ml single cream
- salt and pepper, to taste
- pumpkin seeds, to taste
Heat the oven to 180C / 350F. Place the pumpkins into the hot oven and ignore for at least one hour. Once you can easily stab them with a fork you can remove them – our larger pumpkin needed another 30 minutes.
In a medium-sized pan, fry the finely chopped leek and garlic until soft; add a little water if necessary, 2-3 tbs or so, to prevent it from browning. Using a hand-held blender, blend the pumpkin puree, the leek and the garlic until smooth. Place the pot over a medium heat and add the spices, oregano, vegetable stock and the milk. Stir and add half of the cream, then adjust the liquid until you get a consisteny you like.
Roast the pumpkin seeds in a dry frying pan until they release their wonderful smell. Before serving, add the remaining cream and decorate with the parsley and the pumpkin seeds.
Bloggers will recognise the desperate and blurred family members in the background of this uncropped picture, who are impatiently waiting for mummy to take the bleeding picture and be done. After all, we need to get ready for the real pumpkin feast!