North Indian Spiced Butternut Pumpkin and Split Pea Soup with Garlicky Chard

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I know, I know. It’s April, and you might be asking, why on earth is she posting a butternut pumpkin soup recipe? Let’s say, that spring hasn’t exactly arrived here in Germany. The past week has been a bit of a whirlwind, both the weather and health-wise for me. The weather was basically like this; crazy, cold wind, sun, rain, hail, storm, all in one day. And me, well, I haven’t felt so crappy in a long time. After getting tests done for more than 24 hours, (which obviously included staying at the hospital. Eeek), I told the doctors that I would probably feel worse if they kept me there for yet another night, even if it’s just for observation. The food there, as with most hospital food, was pretty disgusting. The good news is, they haven’t found anything. The bad news is, I almost feel worse after the tests. Spinal tap, or lumbar puncture, turns out to be the most painful thing I have ever experienced. Anyways. I’m home now, and despite the pain in along spine, and dizziness, I whipped up this soup. (feel free to call me Wonder Woman 😉 )I feel a bit better now. I promise you, I’ll be posting a spring recipe soon. I haven’t been to the market in a while, but with the weather like this, I doubt the farmers have any new seasonal vegetables. Meanwhile, stay healthy, and those of us in Germany, hang in there. There will be rhubarb, asparagus, peas, and other wonderful new season’s produce very soon. xo A.

North Indian Spiced Butternut Pumpkin&Split Pea Soup with Garlickly Chard

*Recipe note: The ingredient list seems long, but most of the spices should be easy to buy, or you might have them already in your pantry. The idea of topping the soup with greens was adapted from Deborah Madison’s Vegetable Literacy.

** For those in Leipzig, Yellow Split peas can be found at the Asian market on Hainstr., or at selected organic supermarkets such as Macis or Denns in Höfe mall on Goerdelering. 

Serves 3-4

1 small butternut pumpkin, split in half length wise, seeds and membranes scooped out

1/2 cup (sorry didn’t measure in grams) yellow split peas, washed well

1 Tbsp rapeseed oil, or coconut oil

5 whole cardamom pods

5 cloves

5 cm cassia bark, or cinnamon stick

2 bay leaves

2 small onions, chopped finely

2 garlic cloves, chopped finely

a thumb-sized ginger, peeled and chopped finely

1 tsp coriander

1/4 tsp turmeric

1/2 tsp chili powder

125ml coconut milk

1-2 tsp lime juice

For the chard,

1/2 Tbsp rapeseed oil or coconut oil

1 large clove garlic, finely sliced

1 hot, dried chili,

6-7 leaves chard, finely sliced

1/2 tsp garam masala

A dash of lime juice

1. Turn on the oven to 200 degrees celsius. Rub the pumpkin halves with a bit of oil, lay them, cut side down, on a lined baking sheet. Roast until the flesh becomes soft. Remove from the oven and let cool.

2. In a heavy bottomed, large sauce pan, over medium heat, add the oil, cardamom, cloves, bay leaves, cinammon, and onions. Stir around until they become soft and lightly golden. The spices will smell wonderfully fragrant. Add the garlic and ginger, and stir for about 2 mins.

3. Add the coriander powder, turmeric, and chili powder. Stir once or twice, before adding the split peas, 1.5 tsp salt, and 1l of filtered water. Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer for about 30 mins, or until the peas are tender. Remove the cardamom pods, bay leaves, cinammon, and cloves. They should be fairly easy to find.

4. Scoop out the pumpkin flesh, discarding the skin, and add to the sauce pan.  Add the coconut milk. Puree with a hand held blender, or a blender of your choice, until smooth. Add the lime juice. Check for seasoning.

5. For the chard, in a medium sized frying pan, over medium heat, add the oil, garlic, and chili. Once the garlic becomes soft and lightly coloured, add the chard, and 1/2 tsp salt. Stir for about 2 mins, add a good splash of water, and immediately cover with a lid. Let it steam for a minute or two. Remove the lid, add the garam masala, and stir for another minute. Stir in a dash or two of lime juice.

6. Serve the soup with some chard on top.

Spicy Moroccan Vegetable Soup with Charmoula

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This soup was inspired by a typical Provençal soup, Soupe au Pistou. It’s a summer vegetable soup, usually containing green beans, zucchini, and white beans., topped with a dollop of basil pesto minus the parmasan. I had a half of a very large sweet potato, cooked chickpeas and green beans in my fridge from cooking an adapted version of this last night. While flicking through Moro East, a wonderful cookbook from the famed restaurant, Moro, in London, I’ve come across a recipe for Charmoula. I have made this fragrant paste once years ago but haven’t made it since. It is a kind of a pesto of coriander (or cilantro to Americans) and garlic, and it is used to marinate meat and fish in Morocco. It reminds me of Chimichuri paste from Argentina or Gremolata from Italy; zesty, herby, and lifts up the dish.

DSC_1085 -Charmoula (sorry about the blur. I still need to learn to use this camera!)-

This soup is moderately spicy, and has fragrant and warming spices that are typically used in Moroccan cuisine, and also they are perfect for chilly weather. The vegetable content can be varied depending on what you have in your fridge. But I recommend you to buy the last batch of green beans that can be found at your farmer’s market before they go out of season. Sweet potato gives a gentle sweetness to the soup, which is nice, but a carrot or two could also be used instead. And last but not least, beans. I realize it’s much easier to just pop into the supermarket and get a canned beans, but I can assure you, not only the  taste of a home cooked beans is far more superior, but the cooking liquid from the beans gives any stew or soup dish a great depth. Happy cooking everyone! DSC_1083 DSC_1079 Spicy Moroccan Vegetable Soup with Charmoula

Serves: 2 very hungry people or 4 as appetizer

1 tsp coriander seeds

1 tsp cumin seeds

1/2 tsp sweet paprika

1/2 tsp ground ginger

a big pinch of cinnamon

5 allspice berries (optional)

1 medium onion, finely chopped

2  garlic, finely chopped

1 red chili, de-seeded and chopped (I didn’t de-seed mine and the soup was almost too spicy)

1-2 Tbs olive oil

1/2 large sweet potato, or 1 small-medium, in small dice

Two handfuls of green beans, cut in 2-3cm segments

10 cherry tomatoes, halved

1 cup cooked chickpeas*  (use canned if you are in a hurry. Rinse and drain before use)

1 litre vegetable stock (mix in the cooking liquid from the chickpeas too, if you have some)

Salt & Pepper (I used about a teaspoon of salt but your salt might be less saltier than mine)

For Charmoula (roughly adapted from Moro East Cookbook)

1 small bunch of coriander (cilantro), roughly chopped

1/4 preserved lemon (pulp discarded), finely chopped

1/2 tsp cumin powder

1/2 tsp paprika powder

2 Tbs lemon juice (or more to taste)

1 small clove of garlic

1. Toast the coriander and cumin seeds in a dry pan until fragrant. Transfer them to mortar&pestle or a spice grinder, and grind them into a rough powder. Set aside in a small bowl, and add the ground ginger, paprika, cinnamon, and allspice berries.

2. Heat the olive oil in a large pot in medium-low heat. Sautée onion and garlic gently for about 6-7 minutes until soft. Do NOT let them brown. Control your heat accordingly.

3. Add the mixed spices and cook briefly for 20 second or until fragrant.

4. Add the sweet potatoes, chickpeas, vegetable stock and salt. Bring to boil and let it simmer for 15 minutes.

5. Add the green beans and tomatoes, bring the soup to boil again, and let it simmer for further 5-10 minutes until the vegetables are just tender.

6. Serve with a dollop of Charmoula on top of the soup. Bon appétit!

Charmoula (For Leipzigers, preserved lemons can be found at the Middle Eastern Market on Karl-Heinestr. across from SchaubĂŒhne Lindenfels) While the soup is simmering, make Charmoula. Pound a clove of garlic into a paste with a pinch of salt. Add coriander and pound until it resembles a rough paste. (This can be done in a food processor or an hand-held blender) Stir in the rest of the ingredient until blended. Be careful with salt in this paste, as preserved lemon can be quite salty.