Green Fairy Pumpkin Soup
Nothing says festive like a shot of spirits.
Here I use absinthe, the Kylie Minogue of the spirit world, which adds a bit of green fairy glamour and sparkle to this basic pumpkin soup.
Absinthe, a history
During the late 1800s it became the drink of choice for bohemians and artists alike, and was especially favoured by the French. Although it's now thought that much of its psychoactive properties were exaggerated, tales of hallucinations and mania led to the drink being vilified and banned in the early 20th century.
In Switzerland, it was the murderer Jean Lanfray who spurred this ban. He arrived home on a sunny day in 1905, and when his wife refused to polish his shoes, he murdered her and their two children with a shotgun.
A more than occasional tippler, that day he had enjoyed cognac and soda, crème de menthe, coffee laced with brandy, over a litre of wine, and two glasses of absinthe. After his spree, he tried to take his own life, but failed and later stood trial.
Because of the general panic and distrust around absinthe, Lanfray's general boozing was mostly ignored and the crime was blamed squarely on his consumption of the two glasses of the green spirit. This led to a popular vote in Switzerland to ban the drink, which passed, and then was written into the constitution. Many European and North American countries followed suit.
In the late 90s and early 2000s absinthe had a revival in Europe and North America. In 2005, the Swiss repealed the earlier ban and Absinthe was again made in its birthplace, the Val-de-Travers (see photos), by distilleries like Kübler.
Familial obligations require me to mention that Distillery Studer also makes very delicious absinthe.
Photography courtesy of Sam.
So, back to the soup. The booze is added at the end, so easily omitted for abstainers. I like to bring the bottle to the table and, with a flourish, add about a tablespoon per bowl. Stir in with a bit of crème fraîche and you have a festive starter.
knob of butter
1 onion, chopped
1 tsp ground fennel
500 g pumpkin or squash, peeled and cut into chunks
2 carrots, chopped
1 celery root, peeled and chopped, or 2 celery stalks, chopped
1 potato, peeled and chopped
1 litre good stock
salt and pepper
a blob of crème fraîche
In a large pot melt the butter over medium until bubbling, then add the onion. Cook for about 5 minutes, until translucent. Stir in the ground fennel.
Add the pumpkin or squash, carrots, celery, and potato. Fry briefly, 2-3 minutes.
Pour over the stock and season with salt and pepper.
Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and let simmer for about 20 minutes, until all the vegetables are soft.
Use an immersion blender to blend the soup until smooth. If it is thicker than desired, just blend in a bit more stock or water.
Taste the soup and adjust the seasoning.
Garnish with a blob of crème fraîche and a splash of absinthe.
This makes about enough for two as a main course or four as a starter. Pop some sausages into the soup as it is simmering for a complete meal.
If you don't have absinthe, you could stir in another spirit, or just serve the soup without—it's still delicious.
I have used hokkaido pumpkin (also called red kuri squash), but you could use other gourds—densities vary, but at the end if the soup is think, just add a little water or stock and blend to the right consistency.