Friday, October 23, 2020

VEGAN CREAM OF PUMPKIN SOUP

I must admit that my first contact with pumpkin was baked sweet pumpkin, served warm and lightly dusted with cinnamon, around Christmastime. Yet, the humble pumpkin is much more than that. Although notably famous for pies, is incredibly versatile and delicious in savoury dishes, too, especially in soups and stews.
Soups are one of my favourite meals to prepare, purely because they are so simple to make, so effortless, yet almost nostalgic and rewarding. This is one of my autumn classics, enriched by lightly caramelised onions, garlic, ginger, and smoked paprika, rich and delightfully creamy; the definition of colder weather comfort food.
The pumpkin has a distinct hearty, earthy flavour that makes this soup almost sweet at the first spoonful, but with a delightfully piquant aftertaste. I find it is best served immediately, still quite hot from the stove, with extra crispy croutons and a few slices of whole-wheat bread.
If not making it vegan, feel free to add a splash of double cream after letting the blended soup boil once more, casually stirring it through before dividing into serving bowls.


Ingredients
1 kilogram sweet pumpkin, peeled and seeds removed
200 grams carrots, cleaned
2 tablespoons light olive oil
1 large sweet onion
1 large garlic clove
1 ½ teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon sweet smoked paprika
½ teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon chilli powder, optional
1.2 litres vegetable stock, hot
fresh parsley, for garnish

Preparation
Start by preparing all of the vegetables for the soup. Dice the onion, crush the garlic, and dice the pumpkin and carrots into similarly sized pieces. Take a large pot, add in the olive oil, and let it heat up over medium-high heat. Add in the onion, and cook for about 10 minutes, until fragrant and translucent. Add in the garlic and sauté for only a minute, and then add the pumpkin and carrots.
Cook everything for about 10 minutes, until the pumpkin starts becoming slowly softer, add in all of the spices, mix everything for 30 seconds, and then pour in the hot vegetable stock. Let it come to a rolling boil, and cook until the pumpkin and carrots are tender, about 15 minutes. Using an immersion blender, carefully blend the soup until completely smooth and creamy, and return it to the stove to come to a boil once more. Taste and adjust the seasoning, garnish, and serve immediately. Yields 6 servings.

Friday, October 16, 2020

CHOCOLATE TRUFFLE PUMPKIN BROWNIES

To me, baking has always been fascinating in that it can give so many various textures by using same ingredients. Incredible what can be created with a sprinkle of flour, a pinch of cocoa, and a few pieces of dark chocolate.
I have always preferred fudge brownies ever since I first taught myself how to make them. Cakey brownies are nice, too, but if I can choose, I will always go for squidgy brownies, preferably with a dark chocolate glaze, and a cup of hot, freshly made espresso.
These little beauties are full of chocolate, roasted pumpkin, and gorgeous autumnal warm spices. Using pumpkin purée gives them a lot of moisture, and makes them even fudgier; and the spices wonderfully pair with dark chocolate. Bear in mind that the pumpkin flavour is very mild, and it will not overpower the chocolate. Feel free to add a bit more cinnamon, if you like it, it pairs very well with chocolate.
And even though there is a slight chill in the air, I have to admit I love placing them in the freezer for about 30 minutes before serving, so they take on a gorgeous ice cream bar texture.


Ingredients
100 grams roasted pumpkin purée
1 large egg, at room temperature
50 grams granulated sugar
50 grams brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
60 grams unsalted butter
60 grams dark chocolate (at least 60% cocoa solids)
35 grams plain flour
15 grams unsweetened cocoa powder
1 ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
⅛ teaspoon ground nutmeg
⅛ teaspoon ground cloves
small pinch of allspice
small pinch of salt

Preparation
Melt the butter and chocolate in a bain-marie or on the low setting in the microwave until smooth and combined, and set aside to cool down slightly. Place the egg into a large bowl, and beat with an electric mixer on high, for about a minute or so. Tip in the sugars, and continue beating for another few minutes, until the batter becomes much lighter in colour and a lot more voluminous. Add in the pumpkin purée, vanilla, and the melted chocolate, and blend on low speed until combined.
Sift together all of the dry ingredients, and add them into the batter. Using a small spatula, gently fold everything through. It might look dry in the beginning, but keep folding gently, and the batter will come together. Be careful not to overmix it, so the brownies bake fudgy and not dry. Line a small square baking tin (16x16 cm) with baking parchment, transfer the batter, and level it as much as possible. Bake it in a preheated oven, at 180C, for about 20 minutes or so. Because every oven is different, do check them for doneness with a toothpick, to make sure they do not overbake.

Author's note: If you wish to glaze them like I have, you can find the recipe and preparation here.

Friday, October 09, 2020

MINI PUMPKIN FETA BISCUITS

I am of firm attitude that biscuits, both sweet and savoury, are one of the easiest and most rewarding pastries one can make.
Usually very quick to make with only a handful of ingredients, and there is always an abundance of them, to serve as a delightful snack, or a picnic item. And as a bonus, they do not take that much time to bake, and they can be served warm, right off the baking tray.
These little gems are full of roasted pumpkin, Feta cheese, and spices. The perfect savoury autumnal treat. Feel free to add some thyme, as well, they will pair wonderfully with cheese dips.
I love making them this tiny, but you can definitely make them larger if serving them to the little ones, or as a party hors d'oeuvre.


Ingredients
For the biscuits
50 grams roasted pumpkin purée
75 grams softened butter, unsalted
75 grams Feta cheese
200 grams plain flour
1 teaspoon mild chilli powder
⅛ teaspoon ground cumin
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
For the topping
1 large egg
2 teaspoons sea salt

Preparation
Place the pumpkin purée to a large bowl, add in the softened butter, and mash with a fork until creamy. It is fine if there are pieces of butter that are still visible. Add in the Feta and mash again, this time until blended. If you want to leave some larger pieces of Feta in the biscuits, you can, they will bake wonderfully either way.
Add in the flour, along with the chilli powder, cumin, baking powder, and the baking soda, and start mixing the ingredients with your hand until a soft, pliable dough forms. If it is warm in your kitchen, place the dough in the refrigerator for 20-30 minutes to firm up. If not, proceed with the preparation.
Lightly flour your work surface and roll out the dough to about 3 millimetres thick. Working quickly, cut out rounds with a small cookie cutter (3 centimetres). Swiftly and briefly, knead the remaining dough, roll it out, and repeat the process. Line two large baking sheets with baking parchment, and arrange the biscuits. They will not spread much while baking, so the baking sheets can be a bit crowded.
Just before baking, brush each of them with a beaten egg and generously sprinkle them with coarse sea salt. Bake in a preheated oven, at 200°C, for about 8-10 minutes, or until golden. Serve immediately. Yields 90 small cheese biscuits.

Friday, October 02, 2020

VEGAN PUMPKIN PIE CARAMEL PUDDING

Pumpkin is a very versatile vegetable. Hearty and rich, it is a lovely choice for both sweet and savoury dishes. It is very affordable, high in antioxidants and vitamin A, and all-round delicious in puddings and pies. And speaking of puddings, they will always have a special place in my heart, because the very first dessert I have ever learnt to make was a simple vanilla pudding. This pudding, however, is far from plain. Caramel base, fragrant roasted pumpkin purée, earthy vanilla, and some whipped cream for good measure guarantee a gorgeous autumnal dessert.
When it comes to the pumpkin purée, you can roast your own sweet pumpkin and then blend it until it is silky smooth, which is what I do; or you can use a shop-bought one, but do make sure it is unsweetened and that is not a pre-made pie filling.
If you choose to roast your own pumpkin, it is very easily done, and you can even add spices and flavourings to suit your wishes. Simply cut the pumpkin lengthwise, remove the seeds and strings, and place the halves, cut side down, on a large baking sheet lined with baking parchment. Pierce it a few times with a sharp knife, and bake at 200°C for about 50 minutes to an hour, until tender and very fragrant. Let it cool down slightly, and blend it completely.
If you like, you can add a drop of dark rum to the pudding right before dividing it between dessert glasses. I find this adds a nice depth of flavour to it, especially because its sharp bite balances the richness of the pumpkin.


Ingredients
200 grams roasted pumpkin purée
70 grams cornflour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
⅛ teaspoon ground nutmeg
⅛ teaspoon ground cloves
small pinch of allspice
small pinch of salt
700 millilitres oat milk
100 grams granulated sugar
½ vanilla bean


Preparation
Place the pumpkin purée, cornflour, and the dry spices in a blender, and blend them up completely. Pour in 300 millilitres of cold milk, and blend again. The batter will look almost like a smoothie. Heat up the rest of the milk so it is warm, and set it aside. Tip the sugar into a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan, and place it over medium high heat. Cook, without stirring, for about 5-6 minutes, or until deeply amber and fragrant. Do not stir it and do not leave it unattended, as it will burn easily. Remove the saucepan from the heat and very slowly and carefully add the remaining quantity of milk, whisking constantly. Keep in mind that it will bubble up quite a bit.
Scrape in the seeds from half of a vanilla bean, and return the saucepan to the heat. Keep whisking gently until the caramel dissolves into the milk, about 3 minutes or so. Once melted, let the caramel milk come to a simmer over medium heat, and then slowly, in a thin stream, whisk in the pumpkin mixture, and cook, stirring constantly, for about 3-4 minutes, or until thickened. Remove from heat and set it aside for a minute or two, just to let it cool down slightly. Divide it between six dessert glasses, lightly tap them to level them, cover the surface with cling film, and let it cool completely before serving. If desired, top with vegan whipped cream substitute or whipped coconut cream and extra dark chocolate shavings. Yields 6 servings.

Friday, September 25, 2020

SOFT PRETZEL DINNER ROLLS

Autumn is here, and the time is perfect for homemade soups, full of vegetables and spices. Comforting and warming for the body and the soul. And the only thing a bowl of soup will ever need is a homemade bread roll, crispy, golden, and freshly baked.
Making homemade bread rolls is one of life's simple pleasures. To see the dough form, rise and fill the bowl, become aerated and fragrant, to experience the popping of all of the tiny bubbles created by the fermentation; pure magic.
These soft, golden rolls could not be easier to make. A few humble ingredients, a few hours' time, and they are ready to embellish any meal. Slightly chewy crust, paired by a pillowy soft crumb; a match made in heaven.
On a final note, from time to time I like to lightly brush them with melted butter just as they come out of the oven, while they are still on the baking tray; it gives them a richer flavour, and a slightly softer crust, but that is entirely optional and up to your preference.


Ingredients
For the dough
350 grams plain flour
15 grams fresh yeast
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
175 millilitres warm water
50 millilitres vegetable oil
For the dipping solution
100 millilitres warm water
2 tablespoons baking soda
For the glaze
1 large egg yolk
1 tablespoon water
few pinches of sea salt


Preparation
Sift the flour into a large bowl, add in the salt and sugar, whisk well, and set it aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together the fresh yeast and the warm water, mix and set it aside for about 10 minutes so the yeast can activate. Once the yeast has activated, make a well in the centre of the flour, pour in the yeast, oil, and the vinegar, and mix with a wooden spoon until a very soft dough forms.
If the dough is too sticky, add another tablespoon of flour, but not more. The less flour is added at this point, the softer the finished rolls will be. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead it by hand for about 5 minutes or so, until it becomes supple and smooth. Place the dough in a large bowl, cover it with a kitchen towel, and let it rise for about an hour, in a warm spot.
Take the risen dough out of the bowl and knead it gently on a very lightly floured surface, then divide it into nine equal parts by weight. Shape each part into a smooth roll, cover them with a clean cloth, and let them rest for about 10 minutes. While the dough is resting, combine the water and baking soda in a container deep enough to dip them in. Whisk vigorously until the baking soda is completely dissolved.
Take a large baking sheet, line it with baking parchment, and place it close to the dough, for easier dough transfer. Dip each roll into the baking soda solution, and immediately place it onto the baking sheet. Allow them to rest for about 5 minutes, and the brush them with an egg yolk mixed with a bit of water. Sprinkle them with sea salt and bake in a preheated oven, at 230˚C, for about 12-15 minutes, or until golden. Serve warm. Yields 9 rolls.