I have been waiting for pumpkins to burst on the scene in all their glory before posting this recipe which I mentioned in a previous blog. My corner pumpkin seller Metin is now ensconced under his protective umbrella so today I went along to say hello and buy half a kilo.
It is so easy here as the pumpkin is cut and peeled for you so not arduous at all to prepare. He himself has a little saw with which he cuts away the pieces. He has a mobile phone so you can ring him up and place an order which he will personally deliver if you live nearby! In Turkey interestingly enough, pumpkin is regarded more as a dessert than a savoury. Whereas we would perhaps instinctively think soup or oven-roasted, here it is kabak tatlısı, a traditional syrupy delight served with scattered coarsely chopped walnuts on top.
But back to the soup: this recipe was given to me by my French cousin, Michele, and is a fine dinner party starter. It is so seasonal because of the vibrant autumnal colours and of course the main ingredient is only available at this time of year.
Ingredients for Creamy Red Pepper and Pumpkin Soup
25g/1 oz butter,
1 large onion
500g/1 lb 2oz pumpkin, peeled, deseeded and chopped into chunks
I red pepper, deseeded and chopped
2 vegetable stock cubes, dissolved in 450 ml/ ¾ pint hot water
200g/ 7 oz cream cheese
450ml/ ¾ pint milk
2 tbsps chopped chives
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
· Melt the butter in a large saucepan. Add the onion and fry gently for about 3 mins until softened but not browned.
· Add the pumpkin, red pepper and vegetable stock. Heat until the mixture is just simmering, then turn the heat to low and cook gently for about 20 mins, partially covered, until the vegetables are soft and tender.
· Transfer the mixture to a blender or food processor and add about half the cream cheese. Blend together till completely smooth.
· Return mixture to the saucepan and add the milk and half the chives. Stir thoroughly and reheat till piping hot. Taste and adjust seasoning.
· Ladle the soup into warmed bowls, then top each portion with a dollop of the reserved cream cheese. Sprinkle with the remaining chives and a little extra ground black pepper, then serve.
1. The recipe says that the red pepper can be omitted but I think that would be a real shame as it adds a definite sweet flavour to the soup. The smell while cooking is most inviting. I used the larger variety as it is sweeter than the smaller, more pointed local ones.
2. I put half the cream cheese in the soup as per the recipe but used a swirl of natural yogurt as a finishing touch instead of more cheese. I also used spring onions instead of chives. Chives would be better but we don’t get them regularly.
3. This soup freezes very well but since the quantity given is so little, I think you would have to double the amounts in order for there to be any to freeze!
4. Turks love to eat the seeds of the pumpkin especially in front of the TV! They are available everywhere, shelled or not, but according to my husband, all the fun lies in cracking the seed between your teeth and somehow extricating the inner kernel. It is a skill I do not possess! You can dry your own seeds on a sunny windowsill or, in a dry frying pan, toss them with a little salt. They are supposed to be effective against tapeworms!