Pumpkin Soup

more than just a damn fine lunch

3 June 2010

Flowers after rain

No apologies and no explanations. I’m just going to say that there has been a lot of life happening in the last few months and some of it has not been very nice.

I am slowly returning to things like the garden and photography and other things that I enjoy. That includes here – not that you would know it based on recent form. I’m even trying to dip my toe back into the murky waters of (shh! whisper it…) the PhD.

I am late with all my planting and sowing and plan to update you soon. Well, before December, at any rate.

Filed under: Fallow

Clare @ 6:35 pm | Comments (3)

12 January 2010

Forward facing fragments

… a lot to look forward to this year …

… a feeling of excitement and possibility …

… one BIG birthday to reach and one massive party to plan …

… redesign Pumpkin Soup? Add a bit of spice? Introduce some new ingredients? Just write a bit more frequently? …

… chomping at the bit to complete the PhD thesis and see where that leads …

… planting seeds, waiting to see what comes up …

Filed under: P'Soup rumblings, Writing

Clare @ 8:00 pm | Comments (6)

7 January 2010

Ten years ago

Back on New Year’s Eve there were a lot of Tweets from people about what their lives were like as the year ticked round from 1999 to 2000. For me, some things can’t be confined to 140 characters and I guess this is a little bit late anyway, but here goes…

Ten years ago we spent new year in a chilly cottage in rural Wales with a bunch of friends. The plan had been to cook a huge feast, get dressed up and raise a glass or two (what do you mean ‘there’s a theme here’?). Our plans were derailed when the power went after only 30 mins of the roast being in the oven. We waited a good couple of hours for the repair man to arrive, he spent five minutes sorting it out and we had power. Until he had driven out of view and then the power went again. Freezing cold cottage, no hot food, miles from anywhere – what were we to do?

Well, it probably comes as no surprise when I tell you that we cracked open several bottles of wine and beer, and saw in 2000 on the roof of the cottage while singing, dancing and watching fireworks. We didn’t bother with the posh (but scanty and, therefore, chilly) clothes…

That December we had just bought our first house and spent a lovely Christmas there only days after we moved in.

The new house is significant because the house had a huge and somewhat overgrown back garden. We had decided we wanted a house without a garden as I was completing my Masters and, let’s face it, working at an important (to me) piece of academic work while attempting to tame nature is not a good idea, now is it? (Turns out I still haven’t learned that one…) Plus, we knew nothing about gardening. Still, all we could think of was the possibilities for barbecues…

In the end, the garden pretty much sold the house to us. Or rather, the gorgeous, mature Bramley apple tree stuck right in the middle of it did. In the two years we were there we had apple pies, apple crumble, apple chutney (oh, so much chutney), apple cake, apple tart and most anything else involving cooking apples that you can think of. The previous owners even grew vegetables (who would have thought it?) and this inspired my own first attempts with potatoes (a success), courgettes (eaten by bastard slugs) and carrots (complete no-show). I didn’t realise I was also sowing the seeds of what would become an increasingly important part of my life, as well as this blog.

So what were you getting up to ten years ago and how has it influenced where you are now?

Filed under: Mulch

Clare @ 5:46 pm | Comments (3)

4 January 2010

Un Ballo in Maschera

For a long time now we have spent new year with a particular group of friends. It’s getting to the stage where it just wouldn’t feel like new year without them. You might remember that we went to Florence one year and last year we went to Whitby (yeah, you can hold your ’sublime to the ridiculous’ comments).

We won’t mention the year of the hazelnuts, oh no.

So this year we wanted to do something swish. We thought about going to a swanky masked ball in Oxford, but for one reason and another that didn’t look like it was going to work out. Then I had the fab idea of being swanky at home, but getting someone else to do the cooking.

Meet Alfredo:

Alfredo Palmerini

As we could not get to Italy for new year, we arranged for Alfredo to bring a little bit of Italy to us. He’s a personal chef who created a fantastic menu for an astonishing new year feast.

We nibbled on tomatoes stuffed with pesto, aubergine crostini, chicken liver pate and roasted peppers. The second appetizer course  (I did tell you this was a feast, didn’t I?) was a plateful of gorgeous bruschetta and fantastic olive focaccia.

Bruschetta and olive focaccia

We then moved to the dining table for an antipasto course of bresaola with rocket, parmesan and lemon juice.

bresaola with rocket and parmesan

I would love to show you pictures of the full meal, but from this point on, it is fair to say that I was concentrating far more on eating the food rather than documenting it. It’s possible I had also drunk a small amount of fizz. Ahem.

Still, I can tell you that we went on to have an amazing pasta course of lobster tagliarini with a white wine, tomato and chilli sauce. The main course was roasted sea bass cooked in white wine and rosemary on a bed of sliced potatoes baked with garlic and olives, served up with a delicious tomato and caper salad.

Then – yes, there’s more – we skipped to the cheeses as our French guests wanted cheese before dessert and who are we to argue? For desserts (yes, desserts in the plural), Alfredo created a mountain of profiteroles filled with chocolate or marsala cream and a fabulous zucotto ice cream dessert.

I know, it sounds like an obscene amount of food and I’ll admit we were all very full by the end of it. But we spread the meal over several hours and made the most of our feasting. We didn’t have to worry about a thing and the cost, between us, was cheaper per head than if we had booked ourselves into a restaurant, bought wine and paid for taxis home afterwards. Much cheaper,  I can say.

We rang in 2010 in our silly posh outfits with masks on and a certain amount of post-prandial silliness.

Hapy new year!

Probably our best new year ever – I have no idea how we will top it next year.

So, happy 2010 to you all – how did you see in the new year?

Filed under: Italiano, Mulch

Clare @ 3:52 pm | Comments (2)

30 December 2009

Abundance

Let’s just say that the past few weeks have been, well, testing.

We’ve had a kitchen built in what was our living room. Because nothing helps with thesis writing like major house renovations. And there’s no better time for such refurbishment than in the run up to Christmas, is there? It all came good in the end.

Finished kitchen

One of the fun things about having a brand new kitchen just before Christmas (and finally having some time thanks to completing a major piece of work for a mid-December deadline) is spending lots of time reading recipe books, planning feasts and cooking in it. Having caught this creative cooking bug, I decided that we should put our culinary energy into making hampers as presents for our nearest and dearest.

I am such a fool.

I probably ended up baking more biscuits in three days than I have in the last three years. If I see another pack of unsalted butter I might scream.

Still, I’m really pleased with the results:

Hamper

I realise that hampers usually come in, well, hampers, but a reusable shopping bag made more sense to me (cheaper too…). Here you can see the fruits of my labours: chocolate ginger snaps; chocolate shortbread swirls; Wookiee cookies (choc chip cookies to you and me); blue cheese stars and spiced Christmas letters. For some reason I’ve not included the home-made apple chutney and pickled garlic in this picture. The scary cat picure is a calendar I had made up back in October from various photos I have taken over the year. I’ve done the calendars before but was had a hiatus last year (something to do with work and research and oh, that pesky PhD thing…). Owen made up some chocolate bottles to complete the hand-crafted collection. Each hamper also had a couple of shop-bought gifts in it to pad it out a little – I think in future I would do without these and get a nicer (larger) bottle of wine instead.

Everyone seemed to like their gifts so for a last-minute effort it was pretty good. Next year (next year – what am I thinking?) I think I will make a load of the biscuits doughs in advance and freeze them to spread out the ordeal that is mixing.

Or not. I clearly have not had enough. I have some freshly-mixed dough in the fridge ready to bake more tomorrow…

Filed under: Mulch

Clare @ 7:25 pm | Comments (0)

28 December 2009

Ghost of Christmas Past

The thing about Christmas is, all that time spent with family inevitably results in nostalgic stories. This effect is increased when your mother arrives bearing hundreds of ancient photos she’s dug up (at your request, if truth be told) and which she brandishes with the express purpose of embarassing you.

Internet, you must already know how very much I love ice cream. Well, here’s the evidence that this is something I was born with. Or, if not born with, then certainly instilled with at a seriously young age.

clare-ice-cream_1

For this, parents, I am truly grateful.

Filed under: Archive photo, Nostalgia

Clare @ 10:49 pm | Comments (2)

17 December 2009

Season’s greetings

Feasting!

The pull of the PhD is becoming increasingly difficult to ignore so I have been neglecting you, gentle reader. Take comfort in the fact that I think of you often (no, really) and expect to be able to take up P’Soup again with renewed vigour sometime next year. It will possibly be late next year, but that’s the best I can offer at this time.

So for now I thank you for your patience, your understanding and your encouraging comments. I hope that you have a fabulous Christmas (if that’s your thing) or other seasonal fun and feasting. Take care, keep warm and let me know what’s going on in your garden (it might stop me worrying about what’s *not* happening in mine!).

Filed under: Mulch

Clare @ 1:30 pm | Comments (4)

17 October 2009

Yaaaawwwnnnn…

The garden is shrinking back. Curling up and preparing to snooze for the winter. Instead of vibrant greens there are muted browns, fiery reds and smouldering oranges.

Dry teasel head

It’s true that I am still harvesting courgettes (I kid you not), but not for much longer.  The autumn fruiting raspberries are putting on an astonishing show, but their message is clear: this is the garden’s last gasp.

For this season at any rate.

Filed under: Fruit, Harvest, Seasons - autumn

Clare @ 4:00 pm | Comments (8)

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