One thing that’s hard to do when you’re on a budget is buy locally grown organic produce. It helps if that produce doesn’t extend to meats and cheeses, the extortionate price of which tempted me more towards veganism than the ethical or health benefits ever did in the beginning, as vegetables, whether they are organic or radioactive mutants, tend to be much cheaper than animal products.
It does, however, help to know people who grow their own vegetables and I just so happen to be one of those people. My daughters step mother and her father have an allotment and in the summer they keep me in tomatoes and courgettes but come autumn, their house is literally COVERED in pumpkins and squashes, the size of which you wouldn’t believe if I told you. So look at this picture instead!
Pretty big, huh? Considering I took my daughter, niece and nephew to a pumpkin patch a few days after this photograph was taken and they were charging upwards of £35 for a pumpkin of this size, and they were just for carving, imagine how much cash this delicious 100% organic and most definitely locally grown pumpkin would have cost! It’s good to have connections and it certainly helps when you know that the people that grew this pumpkin are the cutest bloody farmers you’ll ever meet!
It is, I believe, one of the most vital and enduring truths to teach our children – where the food actually comes from. When Molly is with me, the majority of what she eats is vegan though she is always given the option between either meat, veggie or vegan. The point is, whether or not my daughter eats animal products – she knows where they come from and is beginning to understand that the price we pay for meat and dairy goes far beyond pounds and pence. To see these two beautiful creatures with their hands in the dirt, interacting with the earth and to be able to eat something that these ladies grew makes my pumpkin taste damn near heavenly.
So – what’s a Casper pumpkin? They are sweet, firm squashes that get their name on account of the fact that they are white instead of orange (though the Casper pumpkins I’ve met are more an off yellow colour – Custard pumpkins, perhaps?) They seem to have emerged as carving pumpkins this year too though they are so subtle and hold flavours much more robustly than the sometimes overpowering conventional orange pumpkin that once you try them in cooking I doubt the regular pumpkins will ever do again.
This soup is sweet, spicy and perfect for cold winter days snuggled up with Robin Hood Prince of Thieves and a fleecy blanket! (Some people pair wines with food, I tend to pair movies with food…it’s a quirk, leave me be) The recipe is below and not only is it 100% vegan but it’s also cheap and bulky, freezes well and as I found out, makes a welcome gift at work!
Give it a go and see what you think as always, let me know if you try it out!
- 4 cups of diced Casper pumpkin
- 2 peeled, cubed white potatoes
- 1 peeled, cubed sweet potato
- 1 white onion, chopped
- 3-5 cloves of garlic (depending on how much you like the stuff)
- 1 tsp sage
- 1 tsp thyme
- 1 tsp parsley
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 2 star anise
- 2 tbsp vegan butter
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 chopped red chilli
- 1 vegetable stock cube, dissolved in 1 pint of boiling water
- Salt and pepper to taste
In a large pan add the olive oil, onion, garlic, chilli and spices. Cook on a low heat until the onions are clear. Deglaze pan by splashing a bit of vegetable stock into the mix. Cook off the stock until the onion mixture is sticky. Add butter and stir until it melts. Add potatoes and pumpkin into the mix and cook for fifteen minutes, not letting the potatoes and pumpkin brown. You may have to add a little more stock every now and then to keep it loose.
When the pumpkin and potatoes begin to break down, add the remaining stock and top the pot up with two pints of water. Cook on a high simmer for a further fifteen minutes then turn the heat down and cook on a low simmer for a further half an hour. You can stop here, or you can let the soup cook for longer. The longer you cook it the better it’s going to taste!
When you’re ready, take the soup off the burner and blend with a hand blender. If using a jug blender allow the soup to cool slightly before decanting it with a ladle!
I topped my soup with maple chilli pumpkin crisps but croutons would work just as well! To make the crisps I cut and deseeded a small orange pumpkin and cut it into thin slithers. I tossed them in olive oil, chilli, maple syrup and salt before chucking it in the over for twenty minutes. I pat them dry and let them cool down before plopping them into the middle of my masterpiece!
I hope you all go forth and spread the word of the Casper pumpkin that certainly tastes as good as it looks.
Until next time,