Tag Archives: pumpkin

Cooking An Alien Being.

“For I am he who hunted out the source of fire, and stole it, packed it in pith and dried fennel stalk”

Aeschyles: Prometheus Bound.

Last night, I took a leap of faith and cooked an alien. Not anything extra-terrestrial. Rather, I made a dish heroing the weird-looking, fennel bulb. Fennel is a flowering plant species from the carrot family. It is a hardy, perennial herb with yellow flowers and feathery leaves. I was challenged to try cooking fennel after seeing it used in every episode of Masterchef. After all, I’ve never even tasted fennel let alone cooked with it myself. While there are weirder looking fruit and veg, than the humble fennel bulb, even how to cut this thing posed enough of a challenge.

Indeed, the last time I bought fennel bulb it sat in fridge until it was only good for the worm farm. I simply couldn’t get my head around trying to cook it.

“There’s fennel for you, and columbines; there’s rue for you; and here’s some for me; we may call it herb of grace o’Sundays.”

William Shakespeare, ‘Hamlet’ (1564-1616)

So, this time I turned for help to what many know as the Australian cook’s Bible, Stephanie Alexander’s: The Cook’s Companion. The book is organized by ingredient. So, when you’re stumped by that mystery ingredient, Stephanie’s talking in your ear guiding you through the challenge.

To be perfectly honest, before I opened Stephanie up, I had no idea that fennel had an anniseed or licorice flavour. Not a fan of licorice, I wasn’t so sure about cooking this fennel after all, and was seriously concerned about wasting good ingredients. Yet, I guess its popularity on Masterchef encouraged me to have a go. I found a recipe in the cookbook for fennel with a simple cheese sauce and added a few of my own touches.

So here’s my adapted recipe for Pumpkin and Fennel Gratin. It was absolutely scrumptious and I’d describe the anniseed flavour as subtle and refreshing. I had no mad aspirations of giving this dish to the kids. So, I made it for an adult taste with mature cheese. My daughter helped herself,  and said it was “yuck” and tasted of vomit cheese and licorice. On the other hand, my husband and I loved it and I’d be proud to serve it for a dinner party. Well, that’s if we were to host a dinner party…

Well, at least I’ve extended myself!

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Pumpkin and Fennel Gratin

1 Fennel Bulb

1 cup roast butternut pumpkin

left over chicken, beef or lamb optional

Cheese Sauce

40g butter

2 tablespoons Plain Flour

1 ½ cups warm milk

1 cup grated strong cheese. I used Ashgrove Vintage Cheddar.

1 cup breadcrumbs made using stale bread.

2 tablespoons parmesan cheese.

salt and pepper to taste

a scattering of fresh thyme.

Directions

  • Turn the oven onto 200ºC.
  • Line a baking tray with baking paper. Add olive oil, a teaspoon of mustard,  crushed garlic and a sprinkle of salt. Mix.
  • Slice half a butternut pumpkin into cubes. Place on baking tray and bake until golden brown. Add to fennel in baking dish. Use your own discretion on the ratio of both.
  • Grease an ovenproof gratin dish.
  • Blanching Fennel: remove the outer layer of fennel, wash and drain. Boil in a saucepan of salted water for about 2o mins, turning over to ensure it is cooked through. You should be able to push a sharp knife through the fennel bulb.
  • Slice fennel and line the greased baking dish. Add pumpkin and meat if desired.

Cheese Sauce

  • Melt butter in a medium saucepan. Try not to let it brown.
  • Stir in flour over low heat and cook for two minutes with a wooden/large plastic spoon, to prevent the sauce tasting like raw flour. This is called a roux.
  • Gradually stir in milk and bring to the boil.
  • Stirring continuously, add cheese.
  • Spoon cheese sauce over veggies.
  • Cover with breadcrumbs.
  • Sprinkle with extra cheese. I used grated parmesan.
  • Bake until golden brown. The top will develop a scrumptious, cheesy crunch.

I sprinkled roughly a handful of finely chopped left over roast lamb into the mix, which also gave it a rich flavour. Well recommended.

Have you made any dishes with fennel which you’d recommend? 

Bon Appetite!

Rowena

PS Next stop…beetroot. It’s been in the fridge for a week. Do you think using it to make a chocolate cake is cheating?

 

Recipe: Aussie Pumpkin Soup.

It’s Winter here in Sydney and warm Pumpkin Soup is almost as Australian as Vegemite, Pavlova and Hugh Jackman. According to Australian Masterchef host, Matt Preston, Pumpkin is the most common type of soup Googled online. Preston has also found that our love affair with Pumpkin Soup, is uniquely Australian:

“As a nation we are rather unique in our love of pumpkin soup. The French cook it but it doesn’t feature as prominently in their kitchens as a bouillabaisse or a bisque. Americans do it too, but the soup is a poor cousin to the far more popular pumpkin pie. And the Korean hobakjuk is as much pumpkin porridge as soup.”

Before we proceed to the recipe, I have found it necessary to clarify what I’m actually calling “pumpkin”. Apparently, pumpkin by any other name does taste the same, but I’ve also found out that what is referred to as “pumpkin” in different parts of the world, isn’t what we Australians know as “pumpkin”.

Indeed, the butternut pumpkin I’ve used, is known as “squash” or “butternut squash” in other parts of the world.

However, to be sure to be sure to be sure, if whatever you call it comes in a tin, forget it. It’s not going to kill you to make this from scratch and some supermarkets do sell pumpkin pre-peeled and sliced so you can cheat without spoiling the soup.

This recipe is based on on a recipe by Margaret Fulton, who helped launch my cooking journey as a child. In 1968, she launched her first cookbook: Margaret Fulton’s Cookbook,  and it revolutionized Australian cooking. Along with the Australian Women’s Weekly Cookbook, these were cooking Bibles in Australian homes and still are in many today.

Pumpkin soup after school

Our whole family loves this Pumpkin Soup and it literally evaporated off the plates . Indeed, it’s spoon licking good!

Pumpkin Soup

Thanks to the butternut pumpkin/squash, this soup has a deliciously sweet flavour and creamy smooth texture. Yum!

Ingredients

90g butter

4.5 cups butternut pumpkin/squash…peeled and diced

A sprinkling of salt.

½ chopped onion (one smallish onion)

2 cups water

3 tablespoons plain flour

1 cup milk

1 egg yolk

Optional Serving Ingredients:

Sour cream

Chives

Bread.

Cracked pepper

Directions

  • In a large, heavy frying pan, melt half of the butter (45g) on high heat.
  • Add diced pumpkin and onion, turning constantly.
  • Fry for about 10 minutes, or until the pumpkin has started to caramelise.
  • Add water.
  • Reduce to medium heat and simmer until pumpkin is very tender and falling apart.
  • Remove from heat and cool for 15 minutes. This produces a finer texture.
  • You need to puree this pumpkin mix. I usually do it in the blender, but this is quite messy and my ancient blender struggles a bit. A friend recommended using a stick blender, which would cut out a lot of mess and encourage me to make it more often. However you blend it, the texture needs to be very fine and creamy.
  • Melt butter in frying pan. If you have pureed the pumpkin mix in the frying pan, you will need to do this a separate, small frying pan.
  • Add flour to the melted butter and stir together.
  • Add a small amount of pumpkin soup to flour and melted butter and mix well, gradually adding the rest. Stir rigorously to prevent lumps from forming. Blend again if lumps develop.
  • Simmer on low heat for 20 minutes.
  • Just before serving, combine egg yolk with a little of the pumpkin soup and then mix that in with the rest of the soup.
  • Serves four.
Floured Lady

The dogs are my ever-faithful companions whenever I cook. Sometimes, however, they can get caught in the cross-flour. 

Serving Recommendations

Pumpkin Soup is usually served with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkling of chopped chives. I usually chop the chives with a pair of scissors over the top of the soup.

Bread is a natural accompaniment to Pumpkin Soup. It is often served with a crusty bread roll and butter. However, yesterday I diced up a day old baguette, and fried the pieces in a mix of melted butter and olive oil in the frying pan. These were scrumptiously delicious, even if they were a little naughty. Watch the bread closely as it can burn easily.

A word of encouragement. In my experience, it is hard to get this wrong.

That is, as long as you don’t heed the cardinal rule of cooking. Never turn your back on a hot stove.

Bon Appetit!

xx Rowena

5th June, 2017.

Peter! Peter! Pumpkin Painter!

It’s amazing what you come across at the Royal Sydney Easter Show and this year, that included some very well camouflaged pumpkins, which had been transformed into brilliant works of art.

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A Few Great Charlie Brown Quotes:

“In the book of life, the answers aren’t in the back.”

“I think I’m afraid to be happy, because whenever I get too happy, something bad always happen.”

“There must be millions of people all over the world who never get any love letters… I could be their leader.”

“Sometimes I lie awake at night and ask ‘Where have I gone wrong’, then a voice says to me ‘This is going to take more than one night’.”

“Awkward is my specialty.”

 

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“‘And if anyone knows anything about anything,’ said Bear to himself, ‘it’s Owl who knows something about something,’ he said, ‘or my name’s not Winnie-the-Pooh,’ he said. ‘Which it is,’ he added. ‘So there you are.’

AA Milne: Winnie The Pooh.

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Nemo.

“Nemo: I can swim fine, Dad, okay?!Marlin: No, it’s not okay. You shouldn’t be anywhere near here! Okay, I was right. You know what? Let’s start school in a year or two. [starts to take Nemo away]

Nemo: [jerks out of his grasp] No, Dad! Just because you’re scared of the ocean–

Marlin: Clearly you’re not ready and you’re not coming back until you are. You think you can do these things, but you just can’t, Nemo!

Nemo: I hate you.”

-Finding Nemo

Hope you’ve enjoyed our latest stop at The Show!

xx Rowena