Hands-free pumpkin soup

Do you shy away from buying whole pumpkins because it’s such a struggle to cut them up? Well, this is the recipe for you. This is about as hands-free as soup making gets – the oven does all the hard work and all you have to do is a little light stirring and blending at the end. Plus, it looks incredibly cool. What’s not to love about that?

Roast pumpkin, peanut and chipotle soup

1 large crown pumpkin, pierced in a couple of places with a sharp knife
3 onions, unpeeled
6 cloves garlic, unpeeled
2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (or a spoonful of harissa, to taste)
1/2 cup good quality peanut butter
water or vegetable stock
salt and pepper

Put the pumpkin on a large, solid baking tray and shove in the oven. Turn the oven to 150C. Leave the pumpkin for about 45 minutes, then put the onions and garlic on the same tray. Bake for another 45-60 minutes, until the onions are soft and the pumpkin is tender when prodded with a fork.
Let everything cool until you can touch it, then carefully peel the onions and garlic, discarding the skin and root ends. Put them into a large pot.
Cut a lid from the pumpkin, then scoop out and discard the seeds. Carefully scoop out the flesh, leaving a 1.5-centimetre shell. Add the flesh to the onions and garlic, then add the chipotles, peanut butter and a cupful of stock or water. Stir well and set over medium heat. When it starts to bubble, taste for seasoning. Add more stock or water to thin it down a little, then blitz with a stick blender.
If you’re going to serve it in the pumpkin, return it to the heat until it’s bubbling again, then gently ladle it back inside the pumpkin shell. Do not attempt to lift the shell from the roasting dish, just take it to the table in all its rustic glory. Serves 4-6.

Pumpkin Parmesan Buns

I’ve fallen off the breadmaking wagon with a resounding thud in the last fortnight, thanks to a combination of factors including too much work, the snow, a warp-speed trip to Sydney and coming to the end of my 20kg sack of flour. But before I fell into the clutches of a bag of Vogels and a stray baguette, I joined the Fresh From The Oven crew, who “meet” once a month to extend their breadmaking skills.

Sally at My Custard Pie set the challenge for August, suggesting participants deal to their zucchini/courgette glut with a recipe for Courgette Cluster Bread. Zucchinis are currently about NZ$13 a kilo here and they look battered, bruised and extremely weary after a long journey from somewhere warmer. But pumpkins are in massive supply at our weekly vegetable market and I had the bright idea to use them instead.

Pumpkin And Parmesan Cheese Bread

Pumpkin Parmesan Buns
These are easy to make, deliciously light and fluffy and they keep really well (if you can resist eating them). Next time I’m thinking pink – beetroot, feta and fennel seeds, perhaps?

450g peeled, seeded and grated pumpkin
675g strong white bread flour
1/2tsp salt
2tsp dried yeast
4Tbsp parmesan, grated
Freshly ground black pepper
2Tbsp olive oil
Tepid water – about 250ml
Milk, to glaze
Sesame seeds, to sprinkle

Mix the flour, yeast, parmesan, salt and some black pepper together in a bowl, then stir in the olive oil and grated pumpkin. Add water until the mixture comes together as a firm, soft dough. (As per Sally’s instructions, I did this and the kneading in my KitchenAid with the dough hook. If doing it by hand, turn the dough onto a lightly floured board or work surface and knead until smooth and elastic. Lightly oil a bowl and put the dough into rise, covered with cling film or a cloth, for about one hour or until doubled in size.
Knock back the dough in the bowl and then turn out onto a lightly floured work surface. Knead again briefly until smooth.
Divide the dough into 12 equal pieces and roll to shape into even balls. Lightly grease and line the base of a 30cm cake tin (or a roasting dish of similar size) with baking papert. Place one ball of dough in the middle and all the others around it.
Brush the tops of rolls with milk and sprinkle over some sesame seeds. Cover again with oiled cling film or a cloth and leave to prove until doubled in size and the balls touch each other – about 30 minutes.
Put into a preheated oven at 200 C for about 25 minutes until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack.

Random Recipes: Burmese Curry

There are few things more random than the meanderings of a two-and-a-bit-year-old, so I put mine to good use and got her to select the cookbook for this month’s Random Recipe challenge.

I can’t remember how I came to be in possession of Great Ways With Steak & Chops. It was probably a joke gift – I have ‘Cooking For Couples’ and ‘100 Dishes For Two’ that we got as engagement presents. GWWSC was published in 1972 by the Australian Women’s Weekly and written by its well-respected food editor, Ellen Sinclair. Her name should have prompted me to open this book earlier, but food snobbery being what it is, I thought the whole book would be full of appalling examples of 70s cuisine. There are many things in this book I will never, ever, make – such as Veal Oscar (veal steaks topped with canned asparagus, lobster meat and bearnaise sauce) or Pineapple Bacon Cutlets (lamb, topped with tinned pineapple rings, wrapped in bacon, breadcrumbed and baked), but GWWSC actually has some interesting, even enticing, recipes. This is one of them.

Burmese Curry

Ellen Sinclair, who wrote loads of other titles for the Australian Women’s Weekly, certainly knew her stuff. These recipes are very well-written and easy to follow (even if the photos are hilariously awful). The original recipe was very dry, so I splashed in about a cup of water as detailed below and upped the chilli quotient as detailed below. This can also be cooked in the oven – after adding the water clamp the lid on and let it bake for about 1 1/2 hours at 150C.

900g chuck steak, cut into 2cm chunks

2Tbsp oil

4 onions, finely chopped

5cm ginger, grated

2 cloves garlic, crushed

2tsp turmeric

1/2tsp chilli flakes

1 beef stock cube

1 1/2 – 2 cups water

2tsp soy sauce

Heat the oil in a large, heavy pan with a lid. Add the meat and brown well, add the onions, ginger and garlic. Cook until golden brown.

Add turmeric, chilli, water and stock cube and bring to the boil, stirring.

Cover, reduce heat and simmer gently for one hour or until the meat is tender. Add soy sauce and salt to taste. Serve with rice. Serves 4-6.

Lucy had another little lamb and this is how she cooked it

Hello, my name is Baabaara. Image via here

I thought it was best to get the gratuitous and possibly bad taste lamb photo out of the way early on. Please, don’t be offended – I love lambs as much as the next person, especially if that person is cooking this spicy, slow cooked lamb shoulder in my oven, then serving it up to me with crispy roasted potatoes and steamed greens.

Braised Lamb Shoulder

Slow cooked shoulder of lamb
This is my version of a Hugh F-W recipe. It is a firm favourite in our house for a number of reasons, not least because it is very low-maintenance and extremely delicious. Mature lamb (ie, the sort that lies about being younger than it is) is especially good cooked this way.

1 lamb shoulder, bone in (about 2kg)
2tsp cumin seeds
2tsp coriander seeds
2tsp fennel seeds

2tsp black peppercorns

2tsp cinnamon

3tsp sweet smoked paprika

4 garlic cloves, finely chopped

4Tbsp finely chopped fresh rosemary

1 dried chilli, chopped (or 1-2tsp chilli flakes)

3tsp sea salt

2Tbsp olive oil

Preheat the oven to 220C. Toast the cumin, coriander, peppercorns in a dry pan until fragrant. Tip into a mortar and add the garlic, rosemary, smoked paprika, dried chilli and salt. Crush/grind for a bit, then add the olive oil. If you don’t have a mortar you can do this in a mini food processor or just use a bowl, a wooden spoon and lots of elbow grease.
Score the skin of the lamb and put it into a large, lidded, ovenproof dish (like a Le Creuset or similar). Rub half the spice paste over the meat, then put in the oven for 30 minutes. Take it out and rub the remainder of the spice paste on to the meat (I use the back of a spoon). Tip a small glass of water into the pot (not over the meat), put the lid on and return to the oven, turning the heat down to 120C. Let cook for at least six hours, until the meat is falling off the bone.
If you want to cook this in advance, remove the meat from the pot when it is done and discard the bones. Pour the liquid into a container and let cool, then refrigerate both the meat and liquid. To reheat, put the meat back into the (now clean!) pot. Scrape the layer of fat from the now jelly-like liquid and throw it away quickly before anyone sees. Put the jellied liquid in with the meat and reheat at 150C until piping hot.

Welly on a plate

Welly on a plate

Welly on a plate

Wibble wobble

Wibble wobble

Welly on a plate

Sorry, couldn’t help myself. Tomorrow marks the start of Wellington On A Plate 2011 – 17 days of culinary heaven involving beer, blind dining, burgers, cupcakes, cocktails, canapes, chocolate, demonstrations, degustations, dinner deals, fashion shows, a hummus contest, kitchen tours, long lunches, martinis, an amazing Masterclass, offal, oysters, pasta and pastry making, pies, pinot noir, truffles and a look at zoo food (among other things). I’ve been so immersed in writing about the festival for work that I now feel a bit like you do when you’ve cooked an epic feast. Yes, it all looks lovely, but I’ll happily settle for a cup of tea and a lie down!

However, if you like the look of this lovely apron and teatowel, you can buy your own here or you can stay tuned because I might, just might, have some goodies to giveaway when The Kitchenmaid turns one next week… In the meantime, are you attending any Wellington On A Plate festivities? What are you looking forward to?