My hometown of Port Elizabeth has many great characteristics. It has great people who are friendly and welcoming. It has miles of pristine beaches. It has all the amenities of a big city while still being a comfortably manageable size.
But what it doesn’t have is four noticeable seasons.
Obviously, there is summer – a whole lot of it (we sometimes tell people that moving from Port Elizabeth to London means trading 9 months of summer for 9 months of winter!). And then there is winter, where the temperatures get below 10C and there is frost if it’s really cold. But Spring is not heralded by the arrival of seas of daffodils or trees exploding into masses of canydfloss blossoms – it’s simple the period when you no longer need to carry a jersey everywhere with you, but it’s not yet warm enough to swim. Similarly, there is no real Autumn. A couple of trees lose their leaves, but for the most part Autumn is just the time when you have to be quite brave to swim, but you can still wear summery sandals. Bearing that in mind, imagine what a mind-blowing experience my first year in London was. Spring brought an exuberance of blossoms absolutely everywhere; and eye-popping seas of golden daffodils in unlikely places (like in the middle of traffic circles!). I remember my mom trying to get them to flower in PE by putting the bulbs in the freezer for winter – but here they grow, unsupervised, like weeds. Autumn, if anything, was even better. The crisp but chilly days; the smell of woodsmoke from the allotments as people burn their garden waste; and of course the colours. Oh the colours… Even the most mundane-looking trees are suddenly ablaze with colour, especially the wild cherry trees near our house that this year have turned not their usual yellow but a jaw-dropping spectrum of colours from palest shaded salmon to a deep oxblood red (testmimony, I am told, to our long and hot summer this year which increases the sugar content of the leaves and encourages rich Autumn colours). In fact, if you get news one day that I have been run over by a bus, you can be reasonably certain that I stepped absent-mindedly off a kerb while staring up at a particularly colourful Autumn tree. Another benefit of Autumn is of course the easy availability of pumpkins and squash. A couple of weekends ago I hosted a “getting to know your camera” afternoon here at CookSister HQ together with the lovely ladies Ailbhe from Simply Splendiferous, Michele from 5a.m. Foodie and Bron from Feast With Bron. Not only did Bron bring me some utterly sinful pork scratchings from a market near Oval – Michele also brought me some homegrown tomatoes and a pumpkin. The pumpkin sat on my kitchen counter for about 2 weeks, thinking about what to do when it grew up. And then on Sunday I made the pumpkin’s career choice on its behalf: soup. But not just any old soup – I wanted something a little different; something richer and more flavouful than my standard butternut soup. And in the end, inspiration came in the form of this recipe from 101 Cookbooks. I tweaked it a little, especially in the adding of loads of coriander during roasting, and the end result was nothing short of breathtaking. Please try it out soon – it will give you a whole new reason to look forward to Autumn! If you like this recipe, you may also want to try my
And if you are wondering where I got the adorable bamboo leaf plate and bowl, they were both kindly sent to me as free samples by Restaurantware, who make a beautiful range of bamboo biodegradable disposable cutlery and crockery for catering professionals.
- 1 medium-sized pumpkin (15-20cm in diameter)
- olive oil
- 1 Tbsp coriander seeds, crushed
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 small onion, diced
- 1 x 400g can of coconut milk
- 3-4 Tbsp green Thai curry paste
- 500ml chicken or vegetable stock
- chilli flakes to garnish
- Pre-heat the oven to 180C.
- Chop the pumpkin into 6 or 8 wedges. Scoop out the seeds and place the wedges skin side down on a baking sheet lined with aluminium foil.
- Brush them with a little olive oil and place a dab of butter in the hollow of each wedge. Sprinkle liberally with a mix of the cumin and the coriander. Roast in the over for about an hour or until soft enough to be skewered with a fork.
- In the meantime, heat a little olive oil in a large pot and gently fry the onions until translucent but not brown. Scoop the flesh out of the pumpkin skin and add to the onion in the pot. Mash with a fork.
- Add the coconut milk and Thai curry paste and stir until it starts to bubble. Using either a masher or a hand blender, mash to make a smooth puree.
- Add the chicken stock in increments of about 150ml, stirring well after each addition, until the desired thickness of soup is obtained.
- Serve hot, topped with a sprinkling of chilli flakes.