Cooking with the Madame, and a Pumpkin Quinoa soup
February 23, 2011 § 6 Comments
Update, March 20: this soup is now linked to the blogging event, ‘Go Ahead Honey, It’s Gluten-Free!’ See below for a rundown of the event, how this seasonal soup perfectly suited the theme, and for links to this month’s recipe round up.
It’s still summer here, apparently. And yet we have the fire on; in fact it’s been purring away steadily for the last few days. And here I am, sitting in boot slippers and thermal leggings, clinging to a cup of tea. This brush with winter has sent me pining for soup. This pumpkin quinoa soup came about thanks to the cool spell, and also with the help of a new cookbook, also known as ‘the Madame’. That is, Madame E. Saint-Ange, who in 1927 published La Bonne Cuisine, a cookbook for the everyday French kitchen. I was reading all about Julia Child (I only very recently watched and adored the movie about her) and how Julia described this book as “my mentor in my early days in France”. After mentioning the Madame to my Dad, I was delighted a few weeks later when in the mail, there arrived a copy of La Bonne Cuisine!
And so on an unseasonably cool summer weekend I brought the Madame into the kitchen and I’ve been trying out soup recipes with her. When cooking from her book, you feel the Madame in the room. She has an authoritative presence. You want to impress her, to get things right. Her tone seems sometimes strict, but it is from her insistence-her complete confidence-that it must be done that way. For instance, in a preparation of Légumes au Berre (vegetables in butter), you may garnish with parsley, “but if the parsley is not absolutely fresh, it is better not to use it.” And she won’t coddle you either. If your thickening sauce starts to separate, “don’t blame the boiling, but the lack of care”!
I first made her Pumpkin Soup, Housewife Style (she is careful to distinguish between this and something more ‘restaurant style’). A few changes were made, necessary for how I eat, but with the heart of the recipe in tact. The eggs, cracked in at the final moments, were too overpowering for me. And it was a little too thin. But I learned. I learned my family love thick soups. Spoonfuls that really fill your mouth and need a few moments between each.
This is where my soup completely departs from the Madame: I think quinoa would have been rather foreign to the 1920s French kitchen! I’ve tried both quinoa flour and quinoa flakes, and both give the soup an incredible, coat-your-spoon thickness. The scents of pumpkin and quinoa warm up a room and make an incredible combination of nutty, sweet and creamy all at once. And so what began as a wish for a simple bright bowl to warm an unseasonably cool day turned into what is now my favorite soup.
But it is still somewhat the Madame’s. The milk and just a hint of raw sugar are entirely her additions, and they truly add an extra level of comfort to this warming bowl.
Update (March 20): I’m excited to be joining in a blogging event, called “Go Ahead Honey, It’s Gluten-Free!”. Created by Naomi Devlin, and hosted this month by Linda, the theme for this month is seasonal soups. Since we have just crossed into Autumn here in Australia, and the new season’s pumpkins are brightly filling our vegetable crates, I thought this soup would sit well with the theme. I’ve also ‘updated’ the soup, with the suggestion of sweet potato, as I made this variation recently and enjoyed it so much. Thanks, Linda, for hosting, and I look forward to joining in again.
Recipe: Pumpkin & Quinoa soup
Inspired by ‘Pumpkin Soup-Housewife Style’ in La Bonne Cuisine de Madame E .Saint Ange, TenSpeed Press (2005).
- 1kg pumpkin, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
- 3 carrots, peeled and cut in half lengthways*. Keep the pieces large as you will remove them after boiling.
- Updated version: you can replace the carrot with a medium-sized sweet potato. I recently tried and loved this variation; it results it a slightly thicker and sweeter soup.
- ¼ teaspoon each: nutmeg, salt, black pepper
- 4 cups water
- 1 ½ cups milk
- 1 tablespoon raw sugar OR 1 tablespoon of honey
- 1 + 3/4 cups quinoa flakes
- ¼ teaspoon nutmeg, extra
*the Madame also explains that if the inner circle of your carrots is particularly white, cut this out. It is very bland and since carrots have a high water content, it will take flavour away from the taste of the broth.
1. In a large saucepan, bring the water to a boil and add the pumpkin, carrot/sweet potato, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Continue to boil until the pumpkin (and sweet potato, if using) is soft
2. Strain the vegetables and keep the water, which is now your vegetable broth/stock. Remove and discard the carrot. Put the pumpkin (and sweet potato, if using) back into the saucepan and mash
3. Add the milk and sugar/honey, stir and then bring to the boil
4. Add 2 cups of the vegetable broth back to the saucepan, followed by the quinoa flakes and extra nutmeg. You can discard the other 2 cups of broth, or use for another purpose
5. Simmer on medium for 20 minutes
6. Puree in a blender or with a hand-held mixer, and then serve
I hope this warms you on the next chilly day that comes around.