Saffron Pumpkin Soup Served in Mini Pumpkin Bowls
I remember having a delicious velouté de potiron au safran in a French restaurant back when I was still living in Paris. I remembered it had a very nice earthy flavor of pumpkin, chanterelles, walnuts and saffron. The flavors are perfect for Thanksgiving, and given the season, I thought I'd try to recreate it.
I roasted the pumpkin to enhance and accentuate the sweetness without overpowering the soup. Instead of using potatoes as a thickening agent as I normally do, I decided to add pan-fried plantains to complement the sweetness of the pumpkin.
To match the elegant flavors of the soup, I created bowls out of mini-pumpkins for serving. The final result was as visually appealing as it was delicious, and met with a round of "oohs" and "ahs" when I brought it to the dinner table. It's a great first course, and best of all, there aren't any plates to wash when everyone's done!
Yields: 10 servings1 (2-pound) pumpkin
2 plantain bananas (green or yellow)
2 Fuji apples, quartered
4 tablespoons canola oil, as needed
1 sprig marjoram, + extra for garnish
1 sprig thyme, + extra for garnish
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, halved
1 ounce chanterelle mushrooms, drained and patted dry
2 carrots, peeled and diced
1 teaspoon red chili flakes
2 teaspoons kosher salt, as needed
1 teaspoon white pepper, freshly ground
1-1/2 cups heavy cream (or half and half)
1/2 cup crème fraîche
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon saffron threads
1 drizzle walnut oil (optional)
For the pumpkin flesh: The procedure is the same as for making pumpkin purée. Preheat the oven to 425°F. Cut the pumpkin in half, vertically. Remove the seeds and the strings in the center. Sprinkle a teaspoon of salt in the inside of the pumpkin. Place the 2 halves, flesh side down, on a greased baking sheet and roast them for about 1 hour and 20 minutes (until soft). Let the pumpkin cool for a few minutes. Scoop and gather the flesh.
Frying the garlic and onions: Heat about 2 tablespoons of oil in a large pot. Sauté the garlic cloves until golden. Transfer to a plate. Add the onions and sprigs of marjoram and thyme to the oil, and cook, stirring frequently to prevent the onion from burning, until the color is evenly golden brown. Transfer the onions to the plate as well. Remove and discard the marjoram and thyme.
Cooking the plantains: Peel the plantains and cut them into1 to 1-1/2-inch slices. In the same pot, (add more oil if necessary) fry the sliced plantains until golden and soft. Season with 1/2 teaspoon of salt and a pinch of pepper. Mash them using a potato masher.
For the saffron: In a mortar and pestle, grind the saffron threads. Add about 1/4 cup of water. Set aside.
For the vegetable broth: In the same pot, (add more oil if necessary) add red chili flakes and the chanterelles. Sauté them for 2 minutes until fragrant. Add the garlic cloves, onions, mashed plantains, carrot and apples. Fill the pot with about 1 quart of water. Bring to a full boil and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook for about 30 minutes. Add the pumpkin flesh. Season with salt. Cook for another 15-20 minutes. Remove and discard the apples.
For decoration: Mix 2 tablespoons of crème fraîche with 2 tablespoons of heavy cream. The crème fraîche should be thin enough to be able to drizzle the swirls at the end.
For the saffron pumpkin soup: In a blender, combine the soup, heavy cream, crème fraîche and nutmeg until very smooth and creamy. Return the soup to the pot. Add the saffron liquid. Add about another 1/4 cup of water into the mortar to ensure all the saffron is used. Stir well. Check the seasoning of the soup. Season with salt (if necessary) and pepper. Re-heat the soup for 5-10 minutes when you're ready to serve. Drizzle with walnut oil (if used).
Assembly time: Ladle the soup into pumpkin bowls if you like. Add the crème fraîche mixture, forming a spiral and immediately swirl the crème fraîche in a pretty design using a toothpick. Garnish with sprigs of marjoram and thyme on the side.
Serve warm with garlic bread.
I found the mini pumpkins at the local market. Using a paring knife, cut the top of the pumpkins, creating a "lid" for the pumpkin. Remove the seeds and the strings and scoop out the flesh using a melon baler. or a small spoon. You can also serve them in a larger-sized pumpkin. Your eco-friendly pumpkin bowls are ready! If you ensure that the soup remains warm in the pumpkin bowls, you can warm them in the oven for 15 minutes prior to filling them with soup.
Plantains are quite starchy. If you pick them green, the taste is very similar to a potato. If it's yellow, it has a sweeter note. It's preferable not to use black plantains; they're way too sweet.
Saffron is quite expensive; I usually get it at a more reasonable price at the Indian market. It gives the soup a beautiful yellow hue and a nice aroma. If you don't have saffron, you can add paprika instead for a rich color.
You can add any other kind of herbs, such as rosemary or sage.
If you use chicken broth, no need for apples. If you're a vegetarian, you can substitute 2 tablespoons of frozen apple juice concentrate for the fresh apples. When I make vegetable broth, I tend to use Fuji apples or Golden Delicious, which are some of the sweetest varieties. It gives a natural sweetness to the broth that resembles the sweetness from chicken broth.
You can increase or decrease the quantity of water, depending on how thick you want the soup.
Chanterelle mushrooms have a very subtle earthy flavor. I used chanterelles but you can use any other mushrooms.
If you want a contrast in texture, you can top the soup with 1/4 cup of chopped, slightly toasted walnuts.
If you're health-conscious, you can omit the heavy cream and crème fraîche (click on the link for the recipe) and replace them with milk and yogurt.
Published By: on November 11, 2009.