Fish & Shellfish
Side Dishes & Canapes
At the end of the summer I went to see the new head gardener at Parham House in West Sussex, Erika Packard, and in the cafe there we had a delicious pumpkin and apple soup. I’ve been wanting to try and recreate it ever since - so last night, when I was cooking dinner for some friends in the village and I wanted a starter that was easy to make, could be prepared ahead but that looked and tasted special, it seemed a good time to try it out. Because I think a whole bowl of soup can often be too much for a starter I served it in coffee cups, alongside tasting spoons with little pieces of marinated feta to melt into it at the table (from a previous post - https://a-cooks-plot.blogspot.com/2019/02/marinated-feta-with-rosemary-and-chilli.html) and parmesan biscuits (https://a-cooks-plot.blogspot.com/2018/08/parmesan-biscuits.html). But you could just as easily serve it in its own in full size soup bowls, with some crusty bread.
The thing that made it extra special, I reckon, was a few drops of ‘hot sauce’. I’ve been fascinated by hot sauce since I started watching Guy Fieri on Drivers, Diners and Drives, the American TV show on Food Network (Freeview channel 41) - virtually every time he visits a cafe or restaurant, they use hot sauce in the dishes he tastes. There are lots of hot sauce brands around, even here in the UK, but I’ve never found one that quite lived up to the hype - most are all heat but no flavour. I’ve recently come across a new range, Eaten Alive, though, that packs a big flavour punch as well as adding a kick to the dishes it’s used in. Eaten Alive make four different flavours but the one I like best is Preserved Lemon Fermented Hot Sauce, made from yellow habanero chillies, sweet peppers and lemons which have been slowly fermented for months and then blended with raw, unfiltered cider vinegar and lemon juice. It has a really complex flavour and is well worth a try. (As I always say, I’m not being paid for recommendations like this - I just like to mention products I think are worth buying in the hope that my blog readers will too!)
Cut the knobby ends off the squash, then slice it in three horizontally and sprinkle the flesh (not the skin) with 2 tsp of the cumin. Roast for an hour at 180C (fan oven) until soft. Leave until cool enough to handle, then peel off the skin. (You can cut the squash into smaller pieces and they'll roast more quickly,but it's harder to peel lots of small pieces than three large ones.)
Whizz with a stick blender or in a liquidiser with the apple pieces until smooth, then dry-fry the remaining cumin until it starts to release a lovely aroma. Add to the squash puree with the mustard, and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Stir in the stock and then lemon juice a little at a time - keep tasting to see how much you need: the soup should be fresh and lemony tasting, but not too sharp. Then add a few drops of hot sauce and reheat gently before serving.
Serves 2 in soup bowls, or 4 in coffee cups.