Food to make you happy, part 3: Spicy Pumpkin Soup and Trish’s Brown Bread

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For ten long days, I had a Crown Prince Pumpkin sitting in the middle of my kitchen table, it was slowly becoming a permanent feature. We ate around it, silently admiring its pale, flawless green flesh. I kept thinking it was too beautiful to butcher and too grand to dice or cube! It wasn’t until one afternoon, sitting in The Cake Cafe on Dublin’s Camden Street, that it occurred to me what weird and wonderful things I could do to my prince. Ultimately it is a food, an ingredient to be shaped and utilised into a pumpkin head, pumpkin pie, fritters and soups.  So I decided, to be turned into something delectable is surly a better way to go then rotting on my table top! 

I’ve no doubt it was the gorgeous atmosphere of The Cake Cafe that inspired these notions of culinary adventure. Situated to the rear of Daintree Paper Mill,  everything about this little cafe tickles the senses; the smiling staff, kooky furniture, leaking teapots and parade of mouth-watering cakes swept me away in a creative wave. Inspired by the smells and sounds, I furiously began jotting down comforting food combinations into my notebook. One of my favourite recipes from that afternoon, and one of life’s most simple pleasures, is Piping Hot Pumpkin Soup with Home made Brown Bread. It’s my belief that soup can heal both mentally and physically, in my experience, it can have the same effect on your serotonin level as a double chocolate brownie! ♥

The soup is my own creation but I can’t take credit for the brown bread, it came compliments of Trish from Mullingar. She is famed amongst her friends for her rustic brown bread and was very generous in letting me in on her baking secrets. Trish firmly believes that behind every good recipe, are good ingredients and this is why she uses only the finest Irish produce to bake her bread; Macroom Wholewheat Stoneground Flour and Howards One Way Stonegrond are combined with bran and pinhead oats to create a nutty and robust loaf. She encouraged me to play around with the dry ingredients and so I’ve added some sunflower and linseed for increased seedy goodness. The results were sublime, this recipe is simple and delicious and should definitely be attempted at least once in a life time!

What I love about this recipe is its simplicity, but also it’s adventure, it gave me ample excuse to play around with some less familiar ingredients and cooking methods. I have an abundance of sage growing in a large Belfast sink in my back garden and can rarely think of anything interesting to do with it except onion and sage stuffing and I’m not a huge fan of stuffing. Thankfully, fried sage is a beautiful garnish for pumpkin soup, it’s a strong and robust herb that marries well with the sweetness of the pumpkin. It’s also good for you ♥. The Latin for this often neglected perennial is salvia, which means “to heal”, it has been credited with the ability to relieve inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and even enhance memory. It is also reported to support digestion which is why it is commonly combined with fatty meats like pork and beef.

Another excellent reason to buy and cook a pumpkin is for its seeds. I think I may have raved on about the brilliance of these seeds before so I will briefly recap – they are nutritional gold –  25g of pumpkin seeds can provide over 20% of the our daily allowance of iron. They contain a vast amount of both manganese and magnesium which are crucial for bones, cartilage and tissues maintenance. Magnesium deficiency is also symptomatic of depression and insomnia so fortifying your diet with these little beauties will aid sleep and stabilise your mood!

As always, enjoy enjoy enjoy xxx

Recipe creation: Caroline Murray and Trish Malloy

Food styling and photography: Caroline Murray

Prep/cooking time (soup, garnish, bread): 2 hrs

Serves: 6

Spicy pumpkin Soup
Ingredients

  • 2 medium onions, peeled and chopped
  • 40ml olive oil
  • 900g (2lbs) pumpkin
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 300g of ripe tomatoes, or 1 x 400g tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 2 pints of good vegetable stock
  • Finely grated nutmeg to taste
  • ½ tsp cumin seeds
  • ½ tsp coriander seeds
  • salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Preparation
  1. In a heavy-based saucepan, toast the coriander and cumin seeds for 2 minutes, grind the seeds in a pestle and mortar and add 30ml of olive oil; reserve for baking.
  2. Wash the pumpkin under warm water, removing all dirt. Cut in half and scoop out all the seeds and soft fibre. NB: Do not discard! The seeds are gorgeous roasted, check out recipe below.
  3. Preheat the oven to 200C, cut the pumpkin into chunks and put in a roasting tin. Drizzle with the cumin and coriander infused olive oil and season generously with salt and pepper. Roast for 45 minutes, or until soft and coloured around the edges. Turn and shake the chunks once or twice during roasting.
  4. Remove the pumpkin from the oven and allow it to cool, when cool enough to handle, remove the skin from the flesh.
  5. In a heavy-based saucepan, sweat the onion in the remaining oil until soft but not browned, add the garlic and cook for a further 2 minutes.
  6. Add the roasted pumpkin, chopped tomatoes, vegetable stock and simmer for 15 minutes.
  7. Blend the soup until smooth and transfer to a clean saucepan. Heat the soup until piping hot and garnish with the fried sage. Serve with brown bread and real butter.
 

To garnish: Fried Sage and ground peppercorns with cumin and coriander seed
 Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp rape seed oil or sunflower oil
  • Salt and ground black pepper
  • 12-16 sage leaves
Preparation
  1. Heat the oil in a small pan, when the oil starts to bubble add the sage leaves, fry for 5/7 seconds or until crisp.
  2. Transfer the fried leaves to some kitchen towel to soak up the excess oil.
  3. Before serving your Spicy Pumpkin Soup, throw a few fried sage leaves on top of the soup.
  4. Grind a tsp each of the peppercorns, cumin and coriander and lightly sprinkle over the soup with the fried sage, this really lifts the flavour with every mouthful!

 

Trish’s Brown Bread, Makes 2 loaves
 Ingredients

Preparation
  1. Preheat the oven to 180C.
  2. Mix all the dry ingredients together in a mixing bowl.
  3. Add the buttermilk to the dry ingredients.
  4. Mix well, if the ingredients seems too dry, add a little more buttermilk.
  5. Grease the bread tins generously with butter and flour and divide the dough between the 2 tins.
  6. Sprinkle any remaining sunflower and linseed mix on the top, they will toast up beautifully in the oven.
  7. Bake in the oven for 1hr
  8. 20 minutes before cooking time is over, turn the loaf upside down to brown the bottom, reducing the heat to 160C, this will give you a nice crunchy crust while ensuring that the loaf is baked perfectly.
TIP: Macroom Wholewheat Stoneground Flour is widely available in artisan food shops nationwide and can be bought online from The Ballymaloe Shop in Cork for 2.95. if you either can’t be bothered or simply can’t find any Macroom flour, don’t hesitate in using Howards instead, it has a great bite and is a good substitute.
TIP: Don’t attempt to cute the loaf straight out of the oven; try to control yourself! Cutting while the loaf is still hot may cause your beautiful loaf to go ‘soggy’ inside. Give it almost 2hrs, then dig in.
TIP: If like me, you suffer from mild anxiety when removing a loaf from the oven; get a bread thermometer! The internal temperature of a cooked loaf should be 85C / 190°F. This is a worthwhile investment and will encourage you to bake more and with greater ease 🙂
Here’s a simple recipe to use up all those delicious pumpkin seeds, use as a garnish for sweet or savoury dishes and as a light snake for when you get peckish.

Roasted pumpkin Seeds
Ingredients

  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Sea salt

Preparation

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C
  2. Remove the seeds from the fleshy fibres and rinse under cold water.
  3. Lay the pumpkin seeds on a baking tray in a single layer.
  4. Sprinkle with sea salt and roast for 30 minutes.

TIP: it can be a bit of a job removing the seeds from the flesh! I did it by adding the mulch to a colander and massaging it with cold water, the flesh disintegrates down the drain and your left with beautiful pale big seeds to roast.

TIP: Soaking the pumpkin seeds in salt water for 24hrs before roasting them, this deactivates enzyme inhibitors in the seeds. These enzyme inhibitors can irritate the stomach and prevent the absorption of essential nutrients. Soaking the seeds also enhances their flavour as the seed becomes more porous. There are lots of variations on the typical salted pumpkin seed, try adding cinnamon or nutmeg for a sweeter garnish over yogurt and fruit or soya sauce and chilli powder for stirfrys.

 I hope you enjoyed the recipe, now get cooking!

Formidable Fungus: why the simple cep deserves a round of applause!

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I am at the tail end of a debilitating chest infection; first time in six years to feel catastrophically unwell! My boyfriend Scott, (who is quite partial to an illness or two), picked up something rare and affecting at work. He was remarkably unscathed by the virus where as I started coughing one day and didn’t stop for ten!

It’s truly interesting what notions we have about our constitutional well-being; I had notions that I was disease proof,  feared by all pathogen, all viral and bacterial agents……not even the dreaded delirium tremens got their hands on me after a few drinks! YET, there I was, lying on the couch, weak as a kitten and needy for hugs and hot tea………how the mighty had fallen.

Sometimes Mutter Nature likes to remind us of our fragility; a welcome and necessary reminder for somebody like me. I may not have mentioned this, but I was actually climbing the 5 Highest Peaks in Ireland, Northern Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales when the virus got down to its serious work….I was pretty traumatized on return; very sore and very sad.

BUT….the infection allowed me to stop moving for a while and slowly recover my natural vigour and lust for life. It allowed me to curl up on my couch, in front of an open fire, eat Piping Hot Wild Mushroom Soup and get my feet rubbed by my wonderful boyfriend Scott….I can think of worse ways to spend a few days!

A bit more about the where’s and whys of this wonderful soup; firstly, I LOVE mushrooms, they’re creamy without cream and smooth without butter; all the combinations of a vegetarian wet dream. Secondly, mushrooms are a Superfood; they are a power house of natural anti biotic anti viral compounds. They contain an awesome antioxidant called ergothioneine, this little beauty is very effective in giving protection from free radicals as well as boosting our immunity to nasty pathogens. Even though the Shiitake is an expensive addition to the dish, the health benefits of this mushroom are immeasurable; the Chinese have been cultivating it for well over 1000 years, and consider it a medical mushroom and a symbol of longevity, this and the fact that it photographs beautifully were reason enough to include them in the dish!

But fear not if your budget doesn’t stretch as far as the asian variety; The portobello mushroom is far cheaper and equally brilliant. Its jam-packed full of B complex vitamins, selenium, lysine, protein, zinc, copper, manganese and iron. So if you want to simply replace all the posh fungi for 350g of theses beauties; be my guest.

♥ Piping Hot Wild Mushroom Soup

Recipe creation: Caroline Murray

Food styling and photography: Caroline Murray

Prep/cooking time: 50 minutes

Serves: 6

  • 75g (3oz) shallots, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 25g (1oz) butter
  • 30g (1.5oz) dried porcini mushrooms
  • 30g (1.5oz) dried cep mushrooms
  • 50g (2oz) fresh Shitake mushrooms, sliced
  • 150gm (5oz) fresh portobello mushrooms, sliced
  • 100gm (3.5oz) chestnut mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 dessert spoons plain flour
  • 275ml (1/2 pint) warm water
  • 1 vegetable stock cube
  • 2 dessert spoons finely chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
  • 150ml (1/4 pint) single cream
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

To Garnish

  • 1 desert spoon of cream, drizzled over the top
  • 100g (3.5oz) of crushed hazelnuts

TIP: Wild mushrooms, by nature, are delicate and must be cleaned gently with a brush before adding to food, no specialist equipment required, an unused paint brush is perfectly adequate.

Preparation

  1. Soak the dried mushrooms in a bowl of warm water for 20 minutes, reserving the soaking liquid for cooking.
  2. Melt the butter in a large saucepan, add the chopped garlic and shallots and sweat on a low heat for 10 minutes without colouring.
  3. Add the chopped fresh mushrooms and soaked dried mushrooms to the pan and cook for a further 10 minutes.
  4. Stir in the flour, mix well for cook for 2 minutes.
  5. If using fresh stock; gradually pour 275ml the liquid into the pan, stirring continuously until the liquid has create a smooth finish. If using dried or jellied shop bough stock; add it to 275ml of boiling water, let it dissolve, and add as suggested above.
  6. Bring soup to the boil, and then simmer for 20 minutes until all the vegetables are tender.
  7. After you have allowed the soup to cool for 10 minutes, add the chopped parsley then pour the soup into the food processor. Blitz until smooth or if prefer, leave a bit of a bite in it.
  8. Return the soup to a clean saucepan and add the cream and gently heat.
  9. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper and garnish with a little cream and chopped hazelnuts

My advice to the sick; eat this soup, it is life-giving!

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