For the last 12 years , I have had an on again off again job, for just one day a week, in the Murray Hill neighborhood of Manhattan. I don’t actually work in Manhattan much, except when I am performing in a show. My everyday teaching work is overwhelmingly based in Brooklyn, Queens and occasionally the Bronx. One of the things that I like about this occasional job is that Murray Hill is right next to Manhattan’s “Little India”. While this neighborhood pales in comparison to Jackson Heights in Queens, it does afford me once a week, easy access to Indian ingredients. I make more Indian food when I am working at this job.
Also, tucked in between the Indian grocery stores and Curry in a Hurry restaurant is Kalustyan’s, an amazing international gourmet ingredient store. It is tiny, but stuffed to the gills with any fancy ingredient you can possible imagine. You can tell when I have been working at my Murray Hill job when I start suggesting that you purchase dried persian lime in your quinoa tabbouleh, black onion seeds for Red Lentil Dal, Fresh curry leaves for Pongol, or whole cardamom seeds already liberated from their pods for Walnut, Lemon and Cardamom Cake. I literally save up a list of recipes to try that call for hard to find ingredients and set about making them all when I will be near Kalustyan’s on Mondays for work. Of course you can order spices from Kalustyan’s on line, but only one in three packages sent to me ever seems to actually make it to my apartment, so I am not a huge on-line shopper.
One of these recipes that I recently tried, Chestnut Chocolate Cake from Cannelle et Vanille, called for tinned chestnut puree. The recipe used less than a quarter of the tin that I bought, and as much as I liked the cake, I did not see myself making four more of them before the rest of the puree went off in my fridge. I cannot bear to let ingredients spoil. Few things make me angrier than wasting food. Plus, I totally justify the ridiculous amount of money that I spend on ingredients with the fact that nothing gets wasted in my kitchen. So, this soup recipe came out of a desire to use up the chestnut puree. I am very pleased with it! It has a wonderful silky texture and richness without having any heavy cream in it. I might even buy more tins of chestnut puree just for this purpose at some point!
If you decide to try this soup, don’t get too hung up on exact measurements or specifics. It could have more or less pumpkin or chestnut puree and still be very good. You could use a cup a half of chopped onions or shallots instead of leeks. You could use dry spanish style chorizo, fresh chorizo or pre-cooked breakfast sausage chorizo. You can use homemade chicken broth or vegetable stock, stock from bouillon, or even water. The dollop of yogurt at the end is important though. Without it the soup lacks acidity, and as a result the nutty flavour of the chestnut gets overpowered by the pumpkin flavour. However sour cream, creme fraiche or buttermilk would work just as well!KOBOCHA PUMPKIN AND CHESTNUT SOUP WITH CHORIZO
- 1 small kabocha pumpkin (about 32 oz)
- a bit of olive oil
- 2 links of chorizo sausage, diced or released from its casing
- a bit of salt
- The white and light green part of 1 large leek, halved thoroughly washed and then sliced (about a cup and a half chopped) *freeze your leek greens to throw into soup stock!
- 1 large carrot, scrubbed and diced
- 1 large stalk celery, washed and diced
- 3 cups soup stock (homemade chicken or vegetable stock would be great, but I used bouillon)
- about 1 and 1/2 cups chestnut puree (about 12 oz)
- A dollop of plain yogurt to garnish each bowl (sour cream, creme fraiche or even buttermilk would work instead, but some sort of sour dairy is important)
- Pierce the pumpkin all over with a fork, place it on a baking sheet and bake it in a 350 degree oven until it is tender. This takes about an hour, maybe longer, depending on how dense your pumpkin is. When it is tender, slice it in half and let it cool while you saute the sausage and vegetables.
- In a large heavy bottomed pot, heat a small splash of olive oil over medium high heat. Add the diced chorizo and fry, stirring occasionally, until the chorizo is crispy. Remove the chorizo with a slotted spatula and drain it on a towel.
- Add the sliced leeks with a bit of salt to the pot and saute them until they begin to soften. If the pan seems to dry throw in a bit of stock or water and scrape up all the bits of chorizo from the bottom of the pan.
- Add the diced carrots and celery and continue to saute until everything gets very soft.
- Scoop the seeds out of the kabocha and discard them. Scoop all of the cooked pumpkin out of the skin and into the soup pot. Also throw in any juice.
- Add the soup stock and chestnut puree and simmer for five minutes.
- Process the soup until it is totally smooth (I use a submersion blender).
- Serve the soup hot, garnished with a generous dollop of plain yogurt and chorizo sausage.
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