live slow, love nature, be adventurous

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

My Favorite Hearty & Spicy Pumpkin Soup



& Scenes From The Ludwigsburg Pumpkin Festival


I’m going to start this post with a bit of a random question for the tea-lovers among you: Is almond milk supposed to taste terrible in tea? I usually take my tea with a shot of regular or soy milk, but a few days ago I was feeling fancy and bought some almond milk instead and, to be honest, I’m really struggling to understand the appeal. I’ve tried adding almond milk to both chai tea at night and to breakfast tea in morning and instead of giving my drink the creamy consistency I so like, it has separated immediately and given my tea a flavor that I’m not exactly keen on.

Maybe it’s just the particular brand that I have bought, but considering how expensive almond milk is, I’m not sure if I want to try another one unless I know it works as a tea or coffee creamer. And yes, I realize that this is a whole lot of rambling about something that is inherently meaningless and unimportant, but if someone wants to weigh in (and recommend their favorite almond milk) I would really appreciate it!






But let’s get to the true topic of this post: Pumpkins! I’m sure I’m not taking anyone by surprise when I say that pumpkins are easily one of my favorite things about fall. One look at my Instagram page is enough to notice just how big my obsession is! For me, pumpkins really are the perfect vegetables: Pumpkins are healthy and affordable, they can be used in both savory and sweet dishes – soups, stews, pies, muffins, salads, pancakes, the list goes on – and they make for cute decorative objects around the house until you eat them. How can you not love a vegetable that is that versatile?





My favorite way to prepare (& eat) pumpkin is to make a large pot of pumpkin soup. In my opinion, there are not a lot of things that are as comforting as steaming bowl of soup and while this particular one is completely vegan, every spoonful is indulgent and leaves you feeling full and satisfied.

I’ve wanted to share this recipe on my blog for years already – I am not exaggerating by the way – but I just haven’t gotten around to it because food photography is very much out of my comfort zone. I love looking at food pictures, but food photography, or rather food styling, isn’t neither the creative pursuit I enjoy the most nor my biggest strength and so I have never felt very confident in showcasing my skills (or rather my lack thereof) to the world. But since I know that it’s silly to let my inner perfectionist dictate what I can and cannot share on my blog, I’ve decided to finally push the envelope a little bit – so please bear with me even if it’s a slow progress.







Before we get to the recipe, though, I would like to use this opportunity to tell you about one of my favorite fall traditions which is to visit the Ludwigsburg Pumpkin Festival. Since I have already blogged about the festival twice, I didn’t originally see any need to write about it yet again this year, but because I’m of the opinion that one can never post too many pictures of pumpkins in the fall, I just couldn’t help myself.

The Ludwigsburg Pumpkin Festival is one of the largest pumpkin festivals in the world and takes place at the Ludwigsburg Residential Palace close to Stuttgart in the south of Germany. Thousands of pumpkins in all shapes and sizes – some of them skillfully arranged into large statues that correspond with the festival’s annual theme – are scattered over the garden of the palace and create both a veritable paradise for every lover of fall and the ideal playground for any blogger. And since I am both most partial to this period of the year and a bit of a social media addict that means that there is pretty much no place I’d rather be on a sunny day in October.









The Ludwigsburg Pumpkin Festival has been a favorite with locals ever since its inception over ten years ago, but over time it has also deservedly grown in international acclaim and now attracts visitors from all over the world. I wouldn’t fly halfway around the world just to visit, to be honest, but it does make for a fun (& family-friendly) activity if you find yourself in the area.

On the weekends, there are special events like pumpkin carving contests (some of the contestants and their works are pictured above!), pumpkin weighoffs where the largest pumpkins in Germany and Europe are crowned and even a pumpkin canoe boat race which is exactly what you’re thinking off right now. There are also plenty of food stalls where you can indulge in all sorts of pumpkin delights – in between the four of us we had pumpkin soup, pumpkin spätzle, pumpkin rice, pumpkin juice and a few sweet treats and all were delicious – and if you fancy picking up some pumpkins for your own home and kitchen you can do so as well.



Which leads me right back to the beginning of this post: Pumpkin Soup! This soup is so easy to make and includes only a few ingredients that you might already have on hand, but it is full of flavor and definitely feels like a hug in a bowl. There are probably a million and one ways to make pumpkin soup, but this particular one is my absolute favorite and I have been making it for years already. While this is not at all a traditional recipe, the addition of ginger, coconut milk, soy sauce and curry powder give the dish an Asian influence and so I like to think of this soup as a hybrid of Europe and Asia – just like me!

The ingredients listed below are what I typically like to use to make this soup, but when it comes to cooking my philosophy is that you should always be able to make a recipe fit to your preferences – so please do feel free to play around with the ingredients and the method to make the pumpkin sauce that is the perfect one for you!



Ingredients (see stars for notes)


Ingredients (see stars for notes)

One small pumpkin*, cut into bite-sized chunks
2 Chilis (use more or less depending on your desired spice level)
1 white onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 nub of ginger (about one inch), minced
water**
2 tbsp curry powder
1 – 2 tbsp soy sauce
½ tin / 200ml of coconut milk ***
salt and pepper, to taste

* The pumpkin I most like to use for soup is kuri squash because it doesn’t need to be peeled which saves a lot of time. I also like to use Musque de Provence squash, but just use whatever kind of pumpkin you like the most. I don’t recommend using large halloween pumpkins because they usually lack flavor, though, and while Butternut Squash would definitely work, it is not my first choice for soup either.

** I haven’t indicate a precise amount because I always eyeball the amount of water I use as indicate in the method below. You can also swap the water for vegetable stock, but I don’t think it’s a necessary addition – the soup is plenty flavorful on its own already!

*** I prefer the consistency of boxed coconut milk for cooking (see this post for an explanation of the different type of coconut milks available), but tinned coconut milk works just as well.



Method


1. In a large pot, sauté the onion until it has softened and turned translucent, about five minutes. Add the ginger, chili and garlic and fry off with the onion for a few more minutes until they have softened as well and take care not to burn the garlic. Add a tablespoon of curry powder and stir through the vegetables for about thirty seconds. Your kitchen should smell very aromatic at this point!

2. Add a splash of water to the pan to dissolve any bits of curry powder that have started to stick to the bottom of your pot, then add the pumpkin and stir with a large wooden spoon to mix with the other vegetables. Add enough water and a teaspoon of salt to the pot so that the pumpkin is just covered, then bring everything to a boil before reducing the heat to medium. Let simmer until the pumpkin has become soft (a knife should go through without effort) – depending on the type of pumpkin you use and the size of your pumpkin pieces, this should take between twenty and thirty minutes.

3. Check you soup every once in a while to stir and add more water if the mixture becomes to dry, about one cup at a time. Once the pumpkin is cooked, turn off the heat and use an immersion blender to blend up the soup. This step isn’t necessary, but I think that a smooth consistency greatly improves this soup.

4. Stir in the coconut milk and the soy sauce (start with one tablespoon – too much soy sauce will ruin the beautiful orange color of your soup!), the taste and season with salt and pepper to your liking. If you want the soup to be little bit more sweet, add a tablespoon of honey. A tablespoon or two of sriracha are a great addition if the soup isn’t spicy enough for you.

5. At this point, the soup should have a thick and creamy consistency – and in my opinion that’s how this soup tastes the best! Feel free to add some more water (or coconut milk!), though, if you prefer a more runny consistency. Serve with a slice or two of good sourdough bread and enjoy!


What is your favorite way to eat pumpkin?


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