Two new cookbooks provided inspiration for the beginning and end of Christmas dinner this year. The first is by Heston Blumenthal whose restaurant The Fat Duck sits in the upper echelon of the culinary world. I am thoroughly enjoying his Heston Blumenthal at Home book. This book is definitely designed for the adventurous home cook and is filled with insight that can help improve even basic techniques as well as some challenges to push yourself in new directions. The pumpkin soup caught my eye and, given the season, I had to try it. Blumenthal is keen on preserving component flavors which means only cooking things until they are done and not cooking soups so long that they become muted. In this case the pumpkin is cooked in two different ways. Half is roasted and the other half is sweated with onion. I was a little lazy in that this is the soup sans garnishes (though couldn’t resist some espelette pepper) but it is delicious even in this simple form. Here is a link to a more complete version.
Blumenthal Inspired Pumpkin Soup
One small pumpkin (1 kg, metric units I know!)
150 grams unsalted butter (he calls for 250, over two sticks, but I couldn’t do it)
3 medium onions sliced thinly
400 g whole milk
600 g water
sprig of rosemary
vinegar to taste
Peel the pumpkin, cut in half then seed. Cut one half into chunks, toss with some oil and roast in a 180C (350F) oven for 40 minutes until soft and a bit browned. Thinly slice the other half of the pumpkin. Warm the milk in a pan until shy of simmering and drop the rosemary in and turn the heat off. When the roasting is nearly done melt the butter over medium heat and sweat the onions and pumpkin until softened, careful not to color. When softened add the milk (discarding the rosemary), water and roasted pumpkin and bring to a simmer and cook for another 10 minutes. Puree the lot in a blender (careful not to burn yourself, do it in batches) and run through a sieve if your blender leaves chunks. Season with salt, pepper, and your favorite vinegar to taste. Don’t be shy but you don’t want to taste salt or vinegar they will simply bring out the flavors of the soup. Pour into bowls and sprinkle a little hot pepper of choice on the top.
It seems a bit finicky but I have never tasted the sweetness of the onions coming through a soup of this type before. Very cool and I’m sure you can use this technique for all kinds of things.
Dessert came from the Milk cookbook. It was their legendary Crack Pie. It is so named because once you try it you will keep coming back for more. Scientific evidence supports this. As with the Confetti Cookie recipe this one is involved. The crust is actually it’s own recipe of oatmeal cookies that are then crumbled and mixed with butter to form the crust. It is really just a modified Chess Pie if you hale from the south but the secret ingredient of Freeze Dried Corn powder adds a very special flavor. Here is a video from Martha Stewart who visited Milk Bar and managed to score the recipe before the cookbook came out.