Like many of you I have a bookshelf full of cookbooks. I love cookbooks. A good cook book is my ideal Christmas present. I can curl up by the fire on Christmas day whilst the Children are watching a movie and lose myself in a book full of delicious sounding foods.
I especially like the books with a bit of a story to tell. Explanations on basic techniques for example, or in the case of Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall's Everyday book, learning lost techniques.
A couple of times, when I've been feeling a bit cheeky, I buy my hubby a cook book too (which is a bit like buying myself an unofficial present.)
The first time I wasn't sure of the reaction but as he's a big fan of Rivercottage I took the risk and bought him the Everyday cookbook mentioned above. To my slight surprise he absolutely loved it - told his friends about it (it seems that men don't just talk about football!), and loves choosing and cooking recipes from it. One of his top 5 recipes of all time comes from this book - Beef with Soy Sauce and Ginger, and some of our friends that he's cooked it for loved it too!
Recently, instead of the noodles recommended with this dish, he tried out another recipe from the second cook book I bought him: Pumpkin Rice from Caribbean Food Made Easy by Levi Roots. This is a great alternative to the usual soups and roasting methods we've used in the past for the pumpkin flesh as the flavours are very delicate. This is the recipe as written by Levi in his book.
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Pumpkin Rice (serves 8-9)
550ml (just under a pint) water
400g (14oz) pumpkin flesh, deseeded and cut into small chunks
2-3 sprigs of thyme
1 tsp salt
450g (1lb) basmati rice
15g (1/2oz) butter
1. Put the water, pumpkin, 2 sprigs of thyme and salt in a saucepan. Put on a lid. Bring to the boil, turn down the heat and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes or until soft. Remove the thyme and very roughly mash the pumpkin into the liquid with a potato masher. You're not after a smooth puree, more a rough mix.
2. Wash the rice twice to remove some of the starch, swishing it round a bowl and running cold water over it until the water is almost clear, and add it to the pumpkin mix in the saucepan. You want the liquid to cover the rice by about 2 1/2cm (1in). Add a little more water if necessary (or pour off some if there's too much). Add the butter and stir it in as it melts. Put the lid back on the pan. Bring to the boil and turn down to a simmer immediately.
3. Leave to simmer gently for around 20 mins. Do not uncover the pan to take a peek as you want to keep in the heat. The bottom of the rice will brown a little; this is how it is meant to be. Just make sure it is on the lowest heat. Turn off the heat and leave for a few more minutes, or until you're ready to eat. Add the remaining spring of thyme and, if you want to serve it with lots of style, pack into a lightly oiled dish and turn it out in a neat mound on to a serving plate.
Pumpkin Soup (serves 6)
25g (1oz) butter
1 medium onion, finely chopped
200g (7oz) potatoes, peeled and chopped
900g (2lb) pumpkin, diced
250g (9oz) carrots, diced
1.2ltrs (2pints) vegetable stock
150ml (1/4pint) milk
demerara sugar to taste
finely grated nutmeg to taste
salt and freshly ground black pepper
Melt the butter and cook the onion gently for 5 minutes in a covered saucepan, without colouring. Add the potato, 700g of the pumpkin, the carrots and the vegetable stock. Cover, bring to the boil and simmer gently for about 20 mins until the vegetables are tender. Cool a little, then puree in a liquidiser. Return to a clean saucepan and stir in the milk.
Meanwhile, add the remaining pumpkin to a saucepan of boiled salted water and cook for 2 minutes. Drain and add to the pureed soup. Add the sugar, nutmeg and seasoning to taste. Reheat gently.
The most effective way to serve is in a hollowed-out pumpkin. Take a pumpkin, slice off the top quarter, scoop out the seeds, place slices of toasted baguette in the base together with grated Gruyere cheese. Fill with the soup, put on the lid and serve at the table.
Yum Yum. Enjoy!