This winter, I am so in love with my orange Dutch oven. Oh, I was infatuated with it before, but it was mostly like a school girl crush on a boy band poster. It was up there on its own shelf, I looked at it admiringly and, occasionally, when no one was looking, I gave it a little kiss. Not nearly enough cooking was happening with it. But this winter? The boyband came to visit, the pan came down from its shelf and there has been some serious heat.
It is a little embarrassing to admit, but it was popcorn that put the pan into heavy rotation first. I hadn’t had freshly popped corn in a long while, saw a bag in the store and couldn’t resist. Having taken it home, I needed a sturdy pan with a lid and down my orange beauty came. A little oil, some corn kernels- delicious. And then I used it for many more things. Meatballs, chicken, stewed pears. And soups, of course there were soups.
The one at the top I made last week, based on a recipe for Malawi pumpkin soup we had at our last Eating Club meeting. It has coconut milk, lemongrass, fresh cilantro and tasted like an excellent Thai soup to me. (Hope I’m not offending any Malawians there.) Even though I cooked it in my kitchen crush, my version was a little less exciting- the tang of the lime juice was missing. So, with that adaptation, here’s what you do to make a zingy, warming, happy pumpkin soup. Orange pan optional, but desirable.
Oh so desirable.
Zingy pumpkin soup
1 small butternut squash
1 roasted bell pepper, in pieces
2 stalks of lemon grass
3cm piece of ginger
1 fresh chili pepper or ½ tsp minced chili pepper
splash of vegetable oil
half a can of coconut milk
juice from 1 lime
chicken or vegetable stock, enough to cover the vegetables in the pan
Cut a small butternut squash in half and pierce its skin a few times. Pop it in the microwave and microwave for six minutes or so, to soften up the flesh. Leave to cool a little. Meanwhile, crush two stalks of lemongrass and cut them into four or five pieces each. Peel a 3 cm piece of ginger and grate. Dice an onion, finely chop the pepper if using and heat the stock.
The squash should be cool enough to handle, so scoop out the seeds, peel and cut into chunks. (You are welcome to skip the microwave step and just peel and cut the squash raw. It is harder work, but the soup is worth it.) Heat the oil in a heavy bottomed pan and soften the onion in it with the chili pepper. Add the pumpkin cubes, bell pepper, a pinch of salt (depending on how salty your stock is, but it needs quite a bit of salt), the ginger and the lemon grass. Cover with the hot stock and simmer for half an hour or so. If the squash is very soft at this point, turn off the heat. If not, continue cooking until it is. Blend the soft vegetables with an immersion blender, and add the coconut milk and a splash of the lime juice. Taste, and add more lime juice if it needs it.