Kitchen Wench Ellie Won reminisces on the good and bad points of our coolest months
Winter is such a funny season. In a romantic’s world, it conjures images of crackling fireplaces, warm hearths, and snuggling under mountains of blankets in your lover’s embrace. As for myself, two words come to mind: cold and germs.
Mind you, our winters here in Australia aren’t really all that bad. I remember one winter overseas where I ventured outside into the blustery snow with a head of wet hair (I was running late and hadn’t had a chance to dry it after a shower), and the air was so cold that my hair actually froze.That’s right.
Imagine running for a bus with a bunch of solid icicles jingling from your head. Not exactly the best example of a good time! Needless to say, I didn’t repeat that mistake.
Then, there are the germs.
When a particularly ill colleague, who appears to be struck down with some horrific plague, stumbles across to your desk, peers down at you with bleary eyes and nose rubbed so red that it would give Rudolph cause for envy, then hands you a document that you just know they’ve sneezed all over, coughs and smiles apologetically while saying “Sorry, I’m a bit crook”, it takes all your willpower not to go bug-eyed and splutter “GET YOUR FOUL GERM-RIDDEN BEING AWAY FROM ME BEFORE YOU ARE FORCIBLY CLEANSED BY THE POWER OF MY DETTOL!!”
Instead, social policy requires that you coo sounds of pity and gracefully accept said document from their hands, then try not to be too obvious as you race for the hand sanitiser and quash the urge to purify your entire being with a shower of the afore-mentioned antiseptic.
Okay, so that might be a slight exaggeration, but let’s be honest here — winter is not easy to survive. In fact, one of the only consolations about the season of colds and bone-chilling winds is that it is also the season of hearty comfort foods. The sorts of foods that warm you through and through, filling you up and sending you happily to sleep after you’ve relished their embrace.
Winter brings with it satisfying soups, bubbling broths, comforting casseroles and sumptuous stews. Cooking takes a slower pace and instead of quick-fix salads, kitchens everywhere are filled with the sounds and smells of dishes slowly simmering away on the stovetop or baking away to golden perfection in the oven.
Soups, in particular, are my weakness.
There’s something about a bowl of beautiful homemade soup that stirs the soul and sates the stomach like nothing else. Whether it’s brothy like a chickenand- vegetable soup or something smoother like a creamy pumpkin soup, it warms you from the outside in till your extremities can no longer remember being assaulted by the chill.
The added bonus of soups, of course, is that they freeze incredibly well and are a cinch to reheat. I tend to accumulate little zip-lock bags full of various soups over the course of winter and when I come home late from work feeling all tired and grumpy, a hearty and satisfying meal is quick to be had without resorting to poached eggs on toast or takeout.
I’ve shared with you a fabulous recipe for a spicy Thai-style pumpkin soup that is just a little bit special. Standard pumpkin soup is definitely delicious, but if you’ve made it a few times and are thinking about trying something different, I hope you’ll give this a whirl!
Ellie blogs regularly at: http://www.insanitytheory.net/kitchenwench/
Spicy Pumpkin Soup
1kg pumpkin (I like to use butternut
3 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 cup light coconut milk
1 large onion, diced
1 Thai birds-eye chilli, diced
3 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tbsp roughly chopped coriander
1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
Salt and pepper, to taste
Cook your pumpkin through (my preference is to roast), then separate the flesh from the skin and set aside in a bowl.
Heat 1-2 tbsp olive oil in a large pot over medium heat, then sauté the onion and garlic till the onion becomes translucent. Add chilli and coriander and cook till fragrant, then add the cooked pumpkin, stock and coconut milk and stir to combine.
Bring the mixture to a boil, then simmer over low heat for an hour to reduce the liquid by about half. Once the mixture has simmered, blend it all together till completely smooth, then put it back in the pot (or just leave it all in the pot if you have one of those fabulous stick blenders) and stir through the vinegar.
Season with salt and pepper, and serve as is or you can get a little fancy by adding a dollop of natural yoghurt, a few snipped chives and a sprinkling of toasted pumpkin seeds, if you like!