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.

Pomegranate Molasses and Harissa Glazed Carrots with Cashew-Ginger Cream

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Growing up, I was never a picky eater. I ate almost everything, from cow’s milk from 6 month old with no allergy whatsoever, (I still wonder what mum was thinking when she decided to give a baby cow’s milk?!) to fish, kimchi from an early age, and blood soup, according to my aunt. I still have no idea what the soup is, but she claims when I was 3, she saw me eating a small bowl of a pork soup with coagulated blood floating on top, without blinking twice. I definitely wouldn’t eat it now, though. Another story goes, when I was about 2-3, our family went to a restaurant, where a big aquarium with exotic tropical fish was at the entrance. Most kids would have stared at the aquarium and probably admired the beautiful fish, but I saw them as source of food, and said “Mmm, Yummy! I want to eat them all!”.  What a weirdo.

There were few things I didn’t like when I was little, most of them I still don’t like to this day. I thought soy milk was the most disgusting thing ever, I almost puked the first time I tried it. My old flatmate from a few years ago, told me vanilla-flavored soy milk didn’t taste too much like soy milk, but I still found it disgusting. I also despised carrots, raw, or cooked. It took me a very long time to like carrots. I was a teenager when I decided I like carrots when they are cooked, or should they be served raw, they must be grated or julienned. Don’t ask me why. But I still find raw carrot sticks repulsive. My friends laugh at this, of course. I can’t tell you why it’s ok for me to eat grated carrots and not the stick. It could be the aroma, or the texture? Who knows.

The carrot, being one of three components of mirepoix, (the other ones being celery and onion), is sometimes overlooked. I always have one or two laying around in the kitchen, in case I spontaneously want to make a soup or stew, and although when you have sweated the finely chopped carrot in oil for 20 mins with onion and celery, you won’t be able to taste it, but you will notice a difference to a soup when the carrot is missing. Carrots are usually cheap and plentiful almost anywhere you live. They come in beautiful rays of shades, like purple, white, yellow, pink, and orange. They can be paired with many different spices and herbs, and when roasted, the natural sweetness intensifies, especially when they are glazed like in this new recipe. I would have never guessed as a 9 year old that I would ever make a dish where the carrot is the star on a plate. It’s a simple recipe to make for a weeknight dinner. I can also imagine it would be great as an accompaniment to turkey or chicken. Enjoy! xo-A.

Pomegranate Molasses and Harissa Glazed Carrots with Cashew-Ginger Cream

Note: Pomegranate molasses and Harissa can be purchased at turkish/arab supermarkets. Make sure the molasses has as little ingredients as possible. Most of them contain a lot of additives and such.

Serves 2 as an appetizer or a side dish

1 bunch thin-ish carrots (about 8-9), left whole, but halved if they are too thick

For the glaze,

1.5 tsp honey

1.5 tsp pomegranate molasses

1-2 tsp harissa (store-bought is fine)

2 Tbsp olive oil

1.25-1.5 tsp salt

1 tsp coriander seeds, lightly crushed

1/2 tsp caraway seeds

Freshly ground black pepper

1 large clove garlic, grated to a pulp

For the cashew-ginger cream,

60g cashew nuts

40ml water or vegetable stock

A good squeeze of lemon juice

1/2 tsp ground ginger

To serve: A few coriander leaves and/or mint leaves, and a good pinch of roughly crushed pink peppercorns.

1. Preheat the oven to 160 degrees celsius.

2. In a small saucepan, heat the honey over low heat until they become very runny. Add all the ingredients for the glaze and whisk well. Line a baking sheet with a parchment paper. Lay the carrots on the sheet, brush all over with the glaze until they are well covered. Roast for about 45 mins until the carrots are tender. Toss them gently once or twice for even cooking.

3. For the cashew cream, cover the nuts with boiling water and set aside for about 30 mins. This process will soften the nuts. Drain and rinse quickly with fresh water.

4. In a food processor, add the cashews and the rest of the ingredients. Blend until smooth. Add a bit more water or stock if the cream is too thick.

5. Serve the glazed carrots, sprinkled with coriander leaves and/or mint, and a good dollop of the cashew-ginger cream on the side.