C’est la rentrée! Today is a big day as it’s back to school for kids in France! Two months of summer bliss have passed and the time has come to start a new school year. September is a very exciting month. The weather has ripened to perfection, the colours are becoming richer and slowly maturing to a golden hue. Harvest season is starting in Médoc – the grapes are soon ready to be picked and bottled into vintage ‘crus‘. There’s something in the air that’s so powerful and potent these days, as if it was nature’s way to say: ‘I am ready‘. Life and growth is a miracle we should never take for granted. Since I have been living in the country, my sensibility to life has been elevated to new heights.
I have been very lucky to have received yet another abundance of vegetable offerings, this time from Dania, a new friend I met recently through our dogs. Dania is a wonderful horse-breeder and owns a château nearby. She dropped by to give me some of her delicious organic vegetables. Potatoes, aubergines, carrots, garlic and amazing pumpkins of all sorts. I love pumpkins and always try to have a few on our table all year long. They are the heart of my kitchen and inspire me to cook and write. My Chinese grandfather told me that pumpkins have the power to transmit your ancestor‘s luck. That must be why they are my lucky charms.
To inaugurate an auspicious fall, I turned one of my beloved pumpkins into a soup. It’s earthy, wholesome and brings you good luck. I can’t think of a better way to start the new season.
Ingredients: (serves 4)
1 pumpkin (potiron – smaller type) – peeled, deseeded and chopped into chunks
1 small onion (chopped)
150 g chestnuts (peeled)
700 ml chicken stock
30 g butter
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
Crème fraîche (for serving)
Salt and pepper for seasoning
8-10 thin slices of pancetta
A bunch of parsley (finely chopped)
In a large pot, heat the butter on a medium heat and fry the onions until soft and slightly golden, about 4-5 minutes. Add the coarsely sliced pumpkin and give it a good stir. Lower the heat and add the chicken stock and chestnuts. Stir. Add salt, pepper and nutmeg. Cover and cook on a low heat for 20 minutes, or until the pumpkin is tender.
Puree the soup in batches using a food processor or blender. Return to pot, cover and cook for 10 more minutes on a very low heat. Stir occasionally. If the soup is too thick, you can add milk until you get the desired consistency.
In a frying pan, fry pancetta until golden. Drain and set aside. Chop parsley and pancetta to a fine crumble. Set aside. Instead of garnishing the soup from the top, I like to start from the bottom – I enjoy fetching the treasures with my spoon. Place a spoon of crème fraîche in each bowl, sprinkle a generous amount of parsley and pancetta ‘crumble’. Pour soup into bowls and serve.