Potimarron and Leek Velouté

As promised, here’s a wonderful recipe for a thick and tasty soup using a small pumpkin known as the Potimarron. The flesh is dense and flavoursome and is perfect for adding to curries, risotto, vegetable crumbles and stews because it doesn’t break up as easily as larger pumpkins and retains it’s buttery, nutty taste. When made into soup, it hardly needs any other ingredients but in this French recipe, it’s paired with leeks to give a lovely earthy and Autumnal thick soup.

Potimarron and Leek Velouté ingredients
Potimarron and Leek Velouté
½ potimarron or 1 small one (or substitute Butternut Squash, de-seeded and peeled)
2/3 large leeks
1 small onion
25g butter
Vegetable stock
Salt & Pepper

Start by preparing the potimarron. If you have a steamer, place the pumpkin in the steam for about 5 minutes to soften the skin- it makes it much easier to peel. Meanwhile, wash and chop the leeks and an onion.

Potimarron, peeled and chopped

Heat a large saucepan, melt the butter, then gently frythe leeks and onion until they are softened but not browned. Peel then chop the potimarron into large chunks and add them to the leeks. Stir in enough stock to cover the vegetables, bring to the boil, cover and simmer for about 20 minutes or until the potimarron pieces are tender.

Cooking the vegetables in the stock

Leave to cool a little then blitz in a blender for a smooth velouté. If it’s too thick, add a little water, season with salt and pepper to taste and reheat when you’re ready to serve. This soup tastes much better if it’s left for a day or more for the flavours to develop.

Serve with a dollop of creme fraiche swirled through the soup for an extra creamy taste.

Potimarron and Leek Velouté

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Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

I grew Butternut Squash for the first time this year. Just one plant, but it was so successful I wish I’d grown more. Up until now I’d relied on the wonderfully flavoursome potimarron – a small, densely fleshed pumpkin with a super nutty flavour and one of the most popular here in western France. You can roast it, make great soup (goes especially well with leeks and I’ll give you the recipe soon), risotto and curries. But I’ve found that Butternut Squash is equally as adaptable and there’s still plenty of dishes I want to try.

Potimarron and a Butternut Squash
Potimarron (left) and Butternut Squash

I love to cook on a dull, damp Saturday like today. First on the agenda was something tasty for lunch.  I started by roasting half a Butternut Squash I had left over from making a curry earlier in the week. The cut halves keep very well wrapped in cling film in the bottom of the fridge. The plan was to make Roast Butternut Squash soup and  some Soda Bread.

You need to start preparing this from scratch about an hour and a half in advance but you could easily roast the squash ahead of time or the day before and leave in the fridge until you’re ready. I find that if I roast both halves, we can enjoy an evening meal with one half such as  stuffed Butternut Squash with blue cheese and walnuts, then make a soup a day or two later with the remaining half.

Roast Butternut Squash soup served with Soda Bread
Roast Butternut Squash soup served with Soda Bread

Roast Butternut Squash Soup  (serves 2)

1 half Butternut Squash

1 clove garlic

olive oil

1 onion, chopped

½ pint vegetable stock

salt & pepper

pinch fresh nutmeg

crème fraiche to serve (optional)

Begin by scooping out the seeds from the squash. Place the halved squash in an ovenproof dish, place a peeled garlic clove in the depression where the seeds were and pour in a good glug of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper then place in an oven (preheated to 180°C) until the flesh is soft when you insert a knife – about 45 minutes. When cooked, leave to one side to cool a little while you soften a chopped onion in some olive oil in a large saucepan. Remove the flesh from the skin of the squash with a spoon and add it to the onion, not forgetting any of the lovely seasoned olive oil and the roast garlic clove. At this stage I add a pinch of fresh nutmeg but you could experiment with different flavours –  a finely chopped fresh chilli added to the onion will give the soup a nice kick. Add the stock (adjust the quantity if necessary) and bring to the boil, then simmer for 5-10 minutes.

Whizz the soup into a smooth consistency in a blender or with a stick blender like me, taste and season if necessary. Serve with a swirl of crème fraiche and some fresh bread.

Soda Bread

This is ideal when you want fresh bread quickly as it takes less than an hour from start to finish and it looks great on the table. Serve warm.

170g plain flour

170g self-raising flour

½ tspn salt

½ tspn bicarbonate of soda

½ pint buttermilk

Begin by mixing the dry ingredients in a large bowl then add the buttermilk. If you can’t get buttermilk (soured milk), just add 1-2 tablespoons of lemon juice to the milk, stir and leave to stand for 5 minutes. Add the buttermilk to the bowl and mix with a fork until it’s mostly combined then you’ll have to get your hand in there and bring it together into a soft dough. Lightly flour your work surface and just knead the dough lightly to bring it into a ball then place on a floured baking tray. Take a sharp knife and score  a deep cross into the top of the dough. Bake in a hot oven (200°C) for about 30 minutes or until golden brown and sounding hollow when you tap the bottom of the loaf.

Place the loaf on a cooling rack for 10-15 minutes before serving when you can just pull it apart and spread with butter. Delicious!

Tomato and Red Lentil Soup

With an  Autumnal chill in the air at night and shorter days, the veggie garden is beginning to shut down. Somewhat annoying are the peppers and aubergines which are covered in flowers – I doubt that we’ll ever see the fruit grow but it’s a valiant last effort on their part. So, soup is back on the lunchtime menu and here’s a lovely rich combination of taste and colour.

Tomato & Red Lentil Soup
Tomato & Red Lentil Soup

1 large onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 carrot, sliced
4/5 large ripe tomatoes
1 vegtable stock cube or equivalent
1 cup red lentils
1 tbspn olive oil
up to ½ litre water
Salt & pepper

In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil then gently fry the vegetables and garlic for about 5 minutes until softened taking care not to let them brown. Meanwhile, skin and chop the tomatoes and add them to the pan. Rince the lentils and stir them into the vegetables with a stock cube and some  water. The quantity of water required will vary according to how juicy the tomatoes are.

Bring the soup to the boil then simmer on a low heat for about 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally. It’s ready when the carrots are soft. Leave to stand for a few minutes then whizz the mixture to a smooth soup with a blender. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve with fresh bread and some grated Comté, Cheddar or parmesan cheese sprinkled on top.