November used to be about grey days when I lived in the UK. But in Malta, it’s a colourful month, even today with its sunshine and heavy showers. Brightness rules…especially when there are pumpkins!
I called her Big Bertha, the giant, triffid-like pumpkin lurking under netting and sacking, half hidden in the shed. She had been tenderly uncovered for the day, and was soaking up some late afternoon sun. I’d been searching long and hard for some pumpkins ripening on a wall to photo for this post. On our way to the stables last week, J and I came across pumpkin heaven! A ramshackle small-holding heaving under the weight of giant pumpkins, all colours, knarled and smooth, oval and round. Some tucked up in the shed; others open air with more ripening to go. Big Bertha alone looked like she could feed the nation for a week!
Back home, my two more meagre pumpkins, but nonetheless large for a family of three, needed cooking up into something. Today, all sunshine and showers, was the day to cull the green one and make a substantial soup; adding rice for thickening, milk for creaminess and chili and sage to pep it up. Pumpkin is the ultimate raw ingredient for late autumn soups. This recipe is a take on a northern Italian soup, hence the rice. Of course, you can add whatever herbs you wish, but my sage plant is now bent double with rain and in need of a prune, so sage it was. I’ll miss Big Bertha if she’s not there next week. But I have no doubt she’ll be as regal and composed as Mary Queen of Scots when she faces the chop!
All images © Liz Ayling 2012
- 500g pumpkin, chopped into medium-sized cubes, skin removed and de-seeded
- 1 ltr milk
- 500ml stock (fresh or cube, chicken or vegetable), plus some extra water
- 50g long grain rice
- dried chili
- fresh sage – a sprig
- salt & pepper
- olive oil
- cream for serving, if desired
- Parmesan to grate
- Place the chopped pumpkin on a baking tray. Drizzle over a few tablespoons of olive oil and some chopped sage and roast in a pre-heated oven (200°C) for 40 minutes, turning over once to make sure the cubes roast evenly and don’t burn.
- When the pumpkin is tender, and slightly browned round the edges, remove, cool slightly and then whiz up in a food processor til smooth.
- Now, place the pumpkin puree’ in a heavy-based, deep-sided pan. Add the milk and stock, rice, crumbled dried chili and some more chopped sage to the pan. Heat to simmering and cook for around 15-20 minutes until the rice is cooked (see packet instructions for timing). You may need some extra liquid (just add water) if the soup thickens too much as the rice swells. Stir occasionally to prevent rice sticking to the bottom of the pan.
- Remove from heat, cool slightly before whizzing up half the soup in a blender or food processor (in batches so you don’t have the liquid overflowing the blender). Stir blended portion back into the rest of the soup in the pan, reheat gently and serve drizzled with cream, some grated Parmesan and extra sage leaves, if desired.
- Serves around 4-6 portions depending on whether you have it as a main supper dish or a lighter lunch/starter.