I have not posted a single soup recipe this winter and have been searching for inspiration for a while now but could not find anything that really grabbed me. That was until Cherie Antrobus came to the rescue.
I spent last weekend in Cradock as a guest at the Schreiner: Karoo Writer’s Festival. My dear friend and award winning travel blogger, Dawn Jorgensen, who blogs as The Incidental Tourist, had asked me to be part of her Social Media Workshop she was presenting at the festival. Well, that is the official line. I kind of invited myself when I heard she was going to the Karoo (which with Italy is my favourite place in the world). Dawn presented an impressive workshop on the main social media platforms and how you can use it for any kind of business you might be in. I talked a bit about blogging, how Heinstirred started and how I use social media to create awareness of my work and to generate traffic to the blog.
The Schreiner: Karoo Writer’s Festival is an annual event held in the Karoo town of Cradock. It is a wonderful and busy program of book launches, workshops, lunches, walks, presentations, interviews, films and music over 4 days. This year saw Niel Stemmet, Chris Marais and Julienne du Toit, Deon Meyer, Toast Coetzer, Patricia Glyn and Randall Wicomb amongst others, delight audiences with their words and stories. What I loved about the festival is how informal it is, making it so easy to approach the writers for a quick conversation and they were just too happy to reciprocate.
We stayed at Die Tuishuise & Victoria Manor which has been lovingly restored and taken care of by the Antrobus family. The Victoria Manor was built in 1848 and we were lucky enough to call one of the adjoining cottages in Market Street, the Victoria Cottage, our home for the weekend. There is something magical about Karoo hospitality and its people. It takes you in, wraps its arms around you and takes such good care of you. A week later, you find yourself wanting to go back and experience it all over again.
It was at dinner one evening that I tasted this pumpkin soup. We had finished the social media workshop a bit earlier and as fun as it is, it is quite a long and tiring day. I had my glass of wine sorted and proceeded to get a bowl of the soup. As I returned to the table, Cherie asked if I had added the salsa. In my hunger I did not even look at the condiments so went back for a second helping of the soup, this time with the salsa. It elevates the humble soup to something else. So much so that I doubt I will make a pumpkin soup without the salsa again. Cherie told me she got the recipe from her friend Clive Belcher who served it a party one evening. I then proceeded to gently twist her arm to pass the recipe on to me. It is just too good not to share!
The garlicky and smoky sweetness of the peppers, the slight sour hits of apricot and the heat of chilli works superbly with pumpkin. I tweaked the recipe slightly and also roasted the pumpkin before adding it to the stock, as roasting the vegetable intensifies the flavour. I did not have chilli oil and finely chopped a fresh chilli and added it to the salsa. Again the heat is a personal preference and you need to add more or less chilli as it suits your palate. But I do think a little bit of heat is essential.
- 1 large or 2 medium red peppers
- 800g pumpkin or butternut cubed
- 4 cloves garlic, whole and in skins
- oil for drizzling
- 1 onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- oil for frying
- 4 cups warm stock
- 6 dried apricots, finely chopped
- 1 tsp chilli oil or 1 chilli finely chopped
- salt and pepper to season
- Preheat the oven grill.
- Place the peppers on a baking tray and place under the grill.
- Allow the skin to blacken (turn the peppers 90 degrees every 4 minutes or so).
- Remove the peppers and place in a plastic bag to sweat for about 20 minutes.
- Peel off the blackened skin and remove the stem and all seeds and set aside.
- While the peppers are sweating, reduce the oven temp to 200 degrees C
- Place the pumpkin/butternut and garlic on a roasting tray and drizzle with some oil.
- Roast until the pumpkin is cooked and the edges are starting to caramelise. About 30 - 40 minutes.
- Sweat the onions and garlic in a splash of oil and fry over a medium heat until softened.
- Add the pumpkin/butternut and sweat for a further 5 minutes.
- Add the stock and let it simmer for about 10 minutes.
- Season with salt and pepper.
- Remove from the heat and puree the soup. Add some more stock if required.
- In a food processor, squeeze the roasted garlic from the skins.
- Add the peppers, apricot and chilli oil or fresh chilli.
- Blitz for a few seconds at a time until the mixture is still chunky.
- Serve the soup with a dollop of the salsa.