pumpkin, you’re hollow within

Tonight I was obliged to cook dinner for myself and no one else, because Tim’s in Palmerston North for his mother’s graduation (I understand it’s this new qualification two stages after PhD that they had to hastily invent to accomodate her smartness). Luckily, in case I was thinking of just having toast after lazy piece of toast, spread with fistfuls of butter, there’s Nigella Lawson. In the “One and Two” chapter of that seminal text, How To Eat, she luxuriates in the solitary dinner to the point where it seems alluringly rakish to be so exhausted that all you can do is make yourself pasta, gloss it with olive oil, sprinkle with garlic and chilli, and eat it in bed. I like eating in bed as much as the next person who likes eating in bed but she really makes it rock’n’roll.

Hidden in this One and Two chapter is Butternut and Pasta Soup, a recipe that will never be a calling card for Nigella like the Ham in Coca Cola or Chocolate Guinness Cake, but is certainly no less fantastically worthy of your time. There was a tick beside the recipe in my copy of How To Eat but I can’t remember when I actually last made it. Maybe because it’s not the flashiest combination of flavours on the block. However it’s warm, it’s cheap, it’s easy to make and it’s easy to eat. I had half a butternut pumpkin aging in the fridge (and not aging in the socially applauded way, like Helen Mirren) and an open bag of risoni pasta in the cupboard just waiting to be spilled on the floor, so I thought I’d give this another try.

Butternut and Pasta Soup

Serves 2 (I halved the liquid, pasta and pumpkin)

From Nigella Lawson’s seminal text How To Eat

  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1/2 small onion, chopped very finely
  • 250g butternut pumpkin, or any old pumpkin really, chopped into 1cm dice
  • 60mls vermouth or white wine
  • 600mls stock – chicken or porcini stock would be good here
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 60g small soup pasta, like stelline, ditalini or risoni

Heat the oil in a heavy-based pot and add the onion, stirring till soft, then add the cubes of butternut. Cook for around 2 minutes, stirring often, letting the orange cubes soften slightly. Tip in the wine (it will bubble up) and then the stock and bayleaf. Bring to a simmer and leave for about ten minutes.

Nigella then says to remove a ladleful and puree it before returning to the pan, but I said no, because I wasn’t in the mood to clean the food processor. It was fine. Add the pasta, cook for another 10 minutes till the pasta is tender. Ladle into bowls, serve with parmesan to grate over if you like.

The fact that it’s cheap and no hassle to make shouldn’t be the only thing that draws you to this recipe. Even though I didn’t have any stock cubes to hand and so had to use plain water, it was still flavoursome, filling, comfortingly soft and warm. A little sweet from the pumpkin and savoury from the bay leaf. You could gussy it up with a spoon of pesto, or harissa, or whatever. It was a delicious and serene solo meal on a chilly night. And a good reminder that it’s well worth properly re-reading Nigella’s cookbooks for hidden jewels like this.

On Saturday Tim and I went to Bodega to the launch of local musician Grayson Gilmour’s new album, No Constellation. It’s now a well-documented fact, but Gilmour is the first artist to be signed to the newly minted Flying Nun label, which must be pretty exciting for all parties involved – he’s enormously talented, and Flying Nun carries with it decades of respect. We’ve seen Gilmour perform with band So So Modern about a billion times but none of his elusive solo performances so we were really looking forward to it. We got there in time to see Vaults, who, despite getting a bit Deep Forest in places, were overall enjoyable, good music to wallow in. Gilmour’s music translated beautifully live with the help of the musicians backing him (including So So Modern’s Aidan Leong) particularly one of my favourites from the new album, the sparkling, sprinty Loose Change. He deserves to do well, and I hope it all works out for him so…he can perform this solo material a bit more often.

Title via: Tricky’s Pumpkin from Maxinquaye, assisted ably by the glorious Goldfrapp. It’s woozy, it’s mellow, listening to it is actually like being a grain of pasta, floating around slowly in a large bowl of warm butternut soup.

Music lately:

New Dead Weather album! Called Sea of Cowards, it continues, rather than showing strong progress, from their debut Horehound. But, it is still an exciting listen with its dark dark imagery and sizzling instrumentation. And Jack White.

Odessa, by Caribou from the album Swim. I don’t know anything at all about Caribou so I won’t patronise you with reconstituted Wikipedia factlets. But this song has been on the radio an awful lot lately and…I like it. I might even look up Caribou on Wikipedia.

The great Lena Horne passed away recently. I salute her and all her achievements with the obvious but always beautiful Stormy Weather.

Next time: Hopefully I’ll get a post in before then, but this weekend is OH MY GOSH the Wellington Food Show. I’m so excited. It will be my fifth year attending and my third year blogging it, you’d think by now I’d have my own segment or something. At the least I plan on eating my own body weight (or even a larger person’s body weight) in ‘free’ samples.


7 thoughts on “pumpkin, you’re hollow within

  1. Kay says:

    Congratulations to Tim's Mum – and to Tim for having such a smart one!

    How did you resist a nod towards the sibling's devotion to Smashing Pumpkins (equalled only by your Nigella-worship) for you blog title for this posting?

    The soup looks easy and convenient- two of my basic ingredients!


  2. Hannah says:

    Congrats to Tim's mum! And to you for reminding me, in a roudabout way, that I really want to make chickpea and pasta soup (it's kinda the same, right…?)

    Also, surely one of these years you'll step inside the Food Show and everyone will gasp and run for your autograph, because clearly you're New Zealand's most awesomest food blogger and everyone else will work it out eventually.


  3. millie mirepoix says:

    I second (third? fourth?) the comments above re: Tim's mum – what an achievement! Lately when I'm cooking for myself I've been pretty lazy (avocado on toast, anyone?) but this soup sounds easy enough to tackle! Plus I bet if you made enough for leftovers they'd be great.


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