Well it’s that time of year again where that very special fruit, the pumpkin, gets centre stage! The pumpkin is heart-warming, tasty, healthy and versatile! After all what other fruit or veg lends itself so readily to becoming a household decoration? Maybe the melon, and that is where the name originates. The word ‘pumpkin’ derives from the Greek word ‘pepon’ which means large melon (sorry i couldn’t do the squiggly thing over the o)! There are records showing the word ‘pumpion’ or ‘pompion’ in English and French as early as 1547. This later became our present word ‘pumpkin’.
Pumpkins are synonymous with Halloween on the 31st of October where they are carved into scary Jack-o-Lanterns. This was a tradition brought over to America by Irish and Scottish immigrants who used to carve turnips or potatoes into faces for festivals. ( Apparently the English used to carve beetroot but I’m not sure about this fact, sounds a bit messy to me!!) Anyway the immigrants realized that in the new land of America, pumpkins were more plentiful and the tradition crossed over to this new fruit.
Pumpkins are good for you! They are low in calories, low in sodium but high in fiber. They are also high in beta-carotene which is an antioxidant. Researchers believe that beta-carotene can reduce the risk of cancer, heart-disease and slow down the aging process!
I came across a fantastic website from some true pumpkin lovers… www.allaboutpumpkins.com. Check it out to learn more amazing facts.
I was brought up in Japan with a particular type of pumpkin called the Kabocha. This is available in supermarkets here now. The kabocha is usually quite small with a very tough dark green skin and is often steamed with the skin on in Japanese dishes. When living in Japan I made up my own very simple and quick kabocha soup recipe which I will share with you today…
Japanese Pumpkin Soup
225g pumpkin flesh
1/3 litre of water
1 tsp Hondashi granules ( Japanese fish stock)
3 cloves of roasted garlic
Salt and Pepper to taste
1. First roast the garlic cloves on a baking tray with a little olive oil.
2. Put the pumpkin flesh and water in a pan and let it simmer. Add the Hondashi and let the soup simmer for about half an hour, when the soup has thickened add the the roasted garlic which should be soft. Give the mixture a quick mash with a potato masher to get rid of any large lumps or a whizz with a hand blender. Add salt and pepper to taste. Finally add a dollop of creme fraiche before serving. (I am a big fan of creme fraiche I’m afraid!!)
Now, Hondashi is used in most Japanese cooking but it is a slightly acquired taste so if it doesn’t suit your palette this recipe works equally well with chicken stock.
Hondashi is available at any Japanese food stores and at Spinneys and Choithrams for those of you in Dubai!
Happy Halloween and pumpkin enjoying!!!!