This week has been filled with adventure but nothing that reminds me of why I made this recipe. The best thing that happened this week was getting stung by a bee and realising that bee poison is something I am allergic to as well. My hand was swollen like a butternut squash for a good part of the week but it seems to fine now. Other than that, I have also been working on my first “influencer” campaign which means a lot of recipes being are being made incognito that you may not see on my handle until the end of this month.
This week I want to talk about something we have all done and continue to do again and again— compromise. Everyone chooses things that they might think aren’t particularly good for them but is a bargain that seems to make the most sense at the time (that was a long-ass sentence, I know). I have done that countless times in a variety of different aspects. Be it, choosing to have a 3 hour long commute to and from work because I knew that I was learning something valuable about an industry that I didn’t have any prior interest in; or waiting for a someone to fall in love with you when they have no mind space for you and the relationship right now (or in the near future). Time is a constant compromise. I begin my week planning out how to efficiently utilise my upcoming weekend— what recipes to cook when to shoot them, and when to write about them. This would be interspersed with trying to find time for friends, how to move them around to the weekdays, allocate play time with Besan, and time with parents. I really juice my weekends to the max and are probably the days that I sleep the least, to be honest.
Food has been a compromise as well. While it may not seem as such with my blogs, my daily food is a lot different than what I experiment over the weekend. This is because of the lifestyle that I have been trying to create. I no longer call my meals a “diet” but a lifestyle shift. That being said, the food I do eat, at times is a compromise between taste and health. It’s a lot more bearable now but I remember a time when it was a torture that had me in tears. Imagine depriving a 110-kilogram human (who was exclusively on a French fry diet) of all fat and feeding him a chickpea salad for lunch five days a week. It took a lot of time but now I do enjoy meals that have a fair balance of health and flavour.
The one thing that I always stayed away from was any kind of liquid meals. I always thought of blended food as too much of a compromise. If you map the popular cultural trends around liquid meals, they moved from things you ate when you were unwell to being an elixir of nutrients. Liquid meals are healthy and do not have to be tasty because they pack “health.” You give up something you cherish for something that is intrinsically good for you— a compromise that just did not sound appealing. I wanted to make this pumpkin soup primarily because of its beautiful colour. As much as I love brown food, eating something that is pure ochre was quite exciting to me. Pumpkins, in my part of the country are available throughout the year but they aren’t as curated and beautiful as pumpkins consumed in the West. They aren’t orange through and through. The pumpkins we get are imperfect, oblong, green from the outside, and a pale yellow on the inside. This is because culturally there is not dish that calls for an orange ‘kin or the spice that seems to adorn it in every recipe that touches the classic American cookbook horizon.
My pumpkin soup uses a lot of pumpkin because, I think, if you do go through the trouble of making soup, make a big batch that lasts you the week. It has fat in the form of coconut milk, added nutrients from the carrots (that also help with that yellow colour), and turmeric which is just a great spice to really brighten up the dish. I also use a technique where I take one ingredient and incorporate it by both cooking it down and adding it fresh on top. In this recipe, those ingredients were cilantro and coconut. I cook down cilantro stalks that a little bitterness and give it some fiber and garnish with fresh leaves on top to cut some of that coconut fattiness. And while the base of the soup has coconut milk, I also added dried toasted coconut shavings on top just make sure I get a symphony of flavours. The end result is a delicious, neutral, thick soup that doesn’t have one strong flavour and has this beautiful aftertaste of the coconut milk that a lot of vegan recipes mask by adding too many aromatics. I have had this as a lunchtime soup, and even like a dal on top of a bed of quinoa and steamed chicken— both delicious and uncompromising.
Glimpses from the week
2 kilograms of pumpkin, peeled and cubed
2 large red onions, roughly chopped
6 cloves of garlic, sliced
2 inches of ginger, sliced
150 ml of coconut milk
2 large carrots, peeled and chopped
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes.
1 teaspoon of turmeric
3 teaspoons of salt
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Handful of cilantro, with stems
1 cup of desiccated coconut or flakes
Preheat oven to 150°C, and the onions, garlic, ginger, and chopped up cilantro stems into a medium sized bowl
Peel your pumpkin, remove the seeded and flesh from the middle, and roughly cut the pumpkin into big chunks
Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion mixture, chili flakes, turmeric, and salt. Mix well and cook down for about 5 minutes or until the onions turn transparent
Add the pumpkin, 3 cups of water (enough to submerge the pumpkins), and coconut milk. Turn the heat to high and bring the mix to boil
Once the soup has come to a boil, put the heat down to a simmer and cook for another 15 minutes or until the pumpkin is tender
Meanwhile, take your coconut flakes in a baking sheet and bake about 5 minutes (no more than that or they will burn!)
Add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice to the soup and take the soup off the heat
In a blender, the soup (water and pumpkin pieces) and blend in batches
Wipe out the saucepan and add the blended soup back into the pan. Put it on the heat and stir in the remaining lime juice. Taste for salt and spice
Serve hot with toasted coconut and fresh cilantro leaves.