Sunday, 28 November 2010

Soupe de Potimarron

The Potimarron, also known as Red Kuri Squash, Uchiki Kuri Squash, Small Red Hubbard or Orange Hokkaido in the United States, is a beautifully-coloured winter squash found in our local markets in abundance at the moment.
The word 'squash' comes from the Algonquin Native American words askoot asquash, meaning “to eat green.” An annual plant with trailing stems, of the Cucurbitaceae family, Potimarron is the cultivated variety of the species Cucurbita maxima. This hardy winter squash grows to maturity in full sun and is drought tolerant. The squash matures about ninety days after blooming. It is widely grown here in France, especially in and around the Provence region.

The teardrop-shaped Potimarron squash with it's intense, sunset-coloured rind has a pronounced, distinctive chestnut flavour. Poti for Potiron (pumpkin) Marron for Marron (chestnut.) This makes it a unique soup base that lends itself to pairings with many other ingredients. The skin is edible when cooked and adds a lovely golden colour to the dish. Potimarron is a good source of fibre. It also provides vitamin A and vitamin C, some of the B vitamins, calcium, potassium, iron, riboflavin, thiamine. Low in calories and sodium, this deep-coloured squash also contains beta-carotene.

I think one of the most interesting things about the Potimarron, besides it's rich taste that just begs for cooking with butter, olive oil and fresh herbs, is the fact that, unlike other winter squash such as pumpkin, Butternut or Acorn squash, the skin is completely edible when cooked!

(OK, ok, don't call me out on this, you CAN eat cooked Butternut squash skin, I'm just not overly keen on it and you certainly can't really blitz it into a soup. But now I've stated that, you know I'll need to go try it. An experiment will be done as soon as I pick up a Butternut squash from the market, and I'll get back to you with the results!)

But let's start off with something simple that plays upon the rich marriage of chestnut, carrot and pumpkin flavours found in this lovely little squash. Let's make Potimarron soup.

And as long as you have a hand blender, it has to be one of the simplest soups on the planet. Also one of the most filling, you most likely will only manage one bowl!

One Potimarron, washed thoroughly but skin left on.
A couple handfuls of roasted, peeled and softened chestnuts, either from a jar, tin or ones you've roasted and peeled yourself.
A litre or two of vegetable or chicken stock. Or use water and a stock cube or 'stock jelly', that's what I do.
Single or whipping cream (optional)

You simply take a potimarron, cut off the stem and stern hard bits.
And scoop out the seeds.

Then, either chunk it in pieces and simmer until tender in stock or roast in the oven until fork tender.  This is one I roasted in the oven. It concentrated the flavour, I think, but the other method is easier!
The cooked Potimarron and chestnuts, ready for stock and immersion blender!
Either cooking method you choose, put the potimarron with a handful of softened, roasted chestnuts and several cups of stock in a saucepan and blitz with your immersion blender or batch blend in a blender. You'll need to continually add more stock as you blend it, it is very thick. Then simply reheat gently but be careful, it will start to plop like molten lava as it comes up to a simmer, so keep it on a medium heat and stir! Adjust seasoning, adding salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

To serve, simply place three or four of the roasted chestnuts in the bottom of your soup bowl and ladle the soup on top. Finish with a swirl of cream, if you like, but it's not really necessary.

In the soup I show above, I blended the cream into the soup. The dark flecks you see are the roasted skin of the Potimarron. I could have blended it a bit better, I suppose, or passed it through a chinoise, but, it was just for us and the girls certainly didn't mind!

Thank you to Kathy G and Irene HWH for the above recipe, we all love it here Chez CheshireChat!

Now, this soup is great as is, however, I've just done it again today with a slight variation I think I prefer. I sautéed a chopped large white onion in some olive oil and butter, about a Tablespoon of each, then added the raw, chunked Potimarron and chicken stock along with a three inch or so piece of peeled and finely sliced fresh ginger root. Let the ingredients simmer until the Potimarron was fork tender, probably 15 minutes. Blitzed that together and left out the chestnuts as I didn't have any. No cream either. It was a very fresh and delicious soup and I think I'll make it again next time like this, but add fresh marjoram or chives. See? It's a great jumping off place for any number of variations!

Go get a Potimarron and try it yourself and let me know how you like it!

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Writing Letters

When I feel at odds with the world, at odds with myself or confused with my situation, I write.

Sometimes it's a letter, oft-times it's a short story and from time to time it's just a long spilling out of disjointed thoughts.

Now, a lot of the time, this writing is just for me, or for a dear and close friend. Sometimes I write something completely stupid, I offend those around me, and because it is in fact written, I can't easily take it back. It's just as bad with my spoken words. I can be a bit of a hothead, I know this, I do NOT know when to step back and just shut up, I keep talking and digging myself in deeper, and deeper, and deeper until I can no longer see the light of day, let alone the person I was speaking with. Because they've high-tailed it out of here.

Honestly, you'd think after 52-nearly-53 years on Terra Firma, I'd have understood this about myself, I'd have learned to keep my thoughts to myself until fully formed and coherent, but, oh no.

Well... until now. Now I have learned this hard lesson, now I am applying it to my life.

Now that it's too late.

So, what I have decided to do is to write again. I need this outlet here, I need to communicate, I must be allowed to express how I feel or I shall explode. It's therapeutic for me. None of YOU need to read this, it's mostly just for me, it's how I need to cope with overwhelming changes going on around me. How I need to find my Northern Star, fix a course and attempt to tack my way through these stormy seas ahead. Come about. Beware of the boom. And try not to fall overboard.

The information I will put here will have little to do with my children, as I know 'certain individuals' still stalk me through this medium. However, there comes a time when you need to stand up to bullies, to people who would attempt to control your life, a life they no longer have any hold over whatsoever.

So, leave me alone, you know who you are, go find your own life and control that, you hear?

I shall be here writing letters, lots of them. The difference now is that I will re-read these letters, these missives, these musings; I will carefully edit them, I will ruminate over my different turns of phrase as I consider my words, as I reflect and contemplate, hold them up to the light and turn them this way and that. You see, in many ways, it's rather a labour of love what I am doing. Loving myself enough to effect change IN myself. Letting myself reach out and offer my words as little pieces of my soul.

The biggest difference between before and now is that even though I shall be crafting my words into what represents my self, in all possibility, in all certainty, I will never, ever send all of them.

Because sometimes, not hitting send is the very best thing you can do.

There... I already feel much better. All things considered.