Pumpkin soup – trick or treat?


Lately, few friends asked me for a good pumpkin soup recipe. I tried various pumpkin soup recipes before, but I was never thrilled about the result. Usually I love coconut, but not that much in my pumpkin soup, so that version was out of the picture. I tried some more savoury versions, but I was never fully happy with the result.
This was until I tried this version of Alain Ducasse. Guess when you gathered so many Michelin stars you ought to know how to make a good pumpkin soup…. and I can testify here that he does. The addition of leek gives the soup extra body and sweetness, while the rest of the ingredients make it simply delicious.The recipe is pretty simple, as it includes fresh, good quality ingredients and goes perfectly with this time of the year – Halloween.


cream of pumpkin soup

from Ducasse made simple by Sophie

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 onion, thinly sliced,

1 leek (white part only), thinly slices,

1 pound sugar pumpkin, peeled and cut into small chunks (I had one small pumpkin and I used it all)

6 cups chicken broth

3/4 cups ricotta cheese

1/2 cup heavy cream

Fine sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

In a medium stockpot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the sliced onion and leek, and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring frequently, until they soften and begin to look translucent. Stir in the pumpkin and a dash of salt and pepper. Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat, add the ricotta cheese, and stir to combine – I skipped this step, I just added the ricotta before serving


Transfer the mixture to a blender and puree until smooth. Adjust the seasoning to taste. While the soup is cooking, heat a medium skillet over high heat. In the bowl of an electric mixer, whip the heavy cream with a pinch of salt until the mixture forms stiff peaks. Ladle the pumpkin soup into warmed bowls and garnish each serving with the diced bacon – again skipped this, didn”t feel like having any meat component in my soup

Add a generous spoonful of whipped cream in the center of each bowl, some chopped chives, a dash of chilli pepper and serve immediately.

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Papoutsaki, the most delicious shoes ever

The greek flavours are coming come back to my blog. This time in the form of papoutsakia. The little fancy shoes are great either as main dish or as an appetizer. This dish came to mind when I have seen the September challenge of the  Dulce Romanie Project . unfortunately, I couldn’t participate to this contest during the previous months even though I would’ve loved to do it, the proposed ingredients were simply great. This time, the dishes had to contain one of the following ingredients: eggplant and/or pear. As I couldn’t find any pears at the market and all the greek flavours that I encountered during my holidays in Greece were still fresh in my mind, I made some papoutsakia.

Papoutsakia consists mainly of stuffed eggplants topped with bechamel sauce.

The name – little shoes come from the fact that the eggplant sliced in half and stuffed with aromas, veggies and meat resembles some pretty shoes. Ok, ok  – not really Manolo Blahnik material, but pretty damn tasty ones.

papoutsakia

serves 2

Stuffed eggplants

2 large eggplants

1 big onion

2 garlic cloves

2 chicken breasts chopped in small pieces or 250 grams ground meat

one can of tomatoes or 300 grams chopped tomatoes

olive oil

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 tablespoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

salt, pepper, oregano

graviera or kefalotyri cheese

Cut the eggplants in half lengthwise and scoop out most of the eggplant flesh using a spoon and a knife. Sprinkle the eggplant shells with salt and let them “sweat”for 10 minutes, Meanwhile chop the scooped-out eggplant flesh and cook them olive oil, in a pan over medium fire, until browned and wilted.

Separately, pat dry the eggplant shells and then grill them until they soften slightly without loosing their shape.

In a pan, heat 3 tablespoons olive oil and over medium high heat, cook the onion until golden brown and soft. Add the garlic, cook it for 30 seconds and then add the ground meat and continue cooking for about 5-10 minutes, or until the meat is cooked. Add the cooked eggplant flesh, season everything with salt and pepper and then add the chopped tomatoes. Add the cinnamon, oregano, sugar and balsamic vinegar. Cook for 30-40 minutes until sauce has thickened. Remove pan from heat and set meat sauce aside.

 
Bechamel sauce

30 grams butter

30 grams flour

250 ml milk

1 egg

125 grams graviera or kefalotyri  cheese

1 half teaspoon nutmeg

salt, pepper

Melt the butter in a pan, over low heat, and as soon as it starts bubbling stir in the flour,  whisking constantly until the flour gets slightly toasted. Add in the milk and continue whisking for about 8–10 minutes until the sauce starts to thicken. Remove from heat, add 125 grams of graviera or kefalotyri  cheese and the egg. Season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg.

Pre-heat the oven at 170-200C. Set the eggplant shells in a baking tray, spoon the meat sauce in the shells.  Spoon bechamel sauce over the shells, sprinkle graviera or kefalotyri  cheese (gouda  and parmesan cheese in my case, since I couldn’t find any greek cheese around) and bake for about 20-30 minutes or until the top of the eggplants reaches a golden brown colour and the eggplants are tender and cooked throughout.

Grilled eggplants, olive oil, garlic and feta cheese – greek flavours in a simple dish

Holidays are approaching slowly. One day seems like eternity, when it is the only thing separating you from a gorgeous greek beach. Tomorrow, I am flying to Greece and I my taste buds are  dancing for joy  – all that gorgeous greek food that they are going to enjoy soon. I can already hear the waves and feel the breeze and the hot sun on my skin.

In preparation for this trip, I made a dish that reminds me of Greece and of summer. It consists of few simple ingredients, that will give you a great summery dish.

grilled eggplants, with olive oil, parsley, garlic and feta cheese topping 

appetizer – serves 2

2 eggplants

3 garlic cloves, very finely chopped

a bunch of parsley leaves, finely chopped

6 tablespoons of good quality olive oil

1-2 red chilli peppers

salt and pepper

100 grams feta cheese

1 roasted red paprika

Start by grilling the eggplant, for 40 minutes or until it is cooked and soft on the inside  and the skin is charred. Set aside, allow to cool and remove the skin as soon as possible (this part depends on your tolerance to heat ).

Meanwhile roast some red paprika as well, following more or less the same process as for the eggplant. Chop the paprika in small cubes. Mix the garlic with parsley, red-hot chilli pepper, parsley, salt and pepper.

Place the eggplants on the plate, then cut them in quarters on the length. On top of the eggplants sprinkle on top some of the cubed red paprika, crumbled feta cheese and the oily concoction.

Serve warm next to a wedge of lemon.

Kali Orexi!