Necessity is the mother of invention, as they say. This afternoon, I needed to clean out our freezer and my husband needed some flavorful soup. Cleaning out the freezer really isn’t a big deal since it occupies a tiny section of our tall, slim refrigerator. It’s a haven for stock and broth of all kinds, soup bases, cooked dried beans, pureed pumpkin, roasted tomatoes and the like. Little that’s ready-made but a lot that’s most of the way to a finished dish. Between the bounty of the fall and a lot of cooking over the holidays, I haven’t been able to fit the tub for my ice cream maker in the freezer for months. But now it’s time to make our weekly sorbet, so out came a few containers of ingredients for soup.
At Christmas, I received a jar of “ras el hanout” that had been purchased at the exciting new Savory Spice Shop that opened in town. Much better than Penzey’s and more on a par with the Tea and Spice Exchange that I visited in Winter Park, Florida a few years ago. While the shop has herbs and spices and blends that are pre-packaged, the norm is to take the storage jar to the counter where they’ll dish it out for you in just about any amount you want. That’s great for me, since I like my spices fresh and I can buy tiny amounts in bulk.
Ras el hanout is the Moroccan version of Indian curry, in that it is a mixture of spices including in my jar: nutmeg, sea salt, black pepper, ginger, cardamom, mace, cinnamon, allspice, turmeric and saffron. I used it to lend an intriguing and lingering spiciness to a soup made mostly of pumpkin and vegetable broth, with a little tomato puree and chickpeas added. Stir in some fresh cilantro if you have some, or sprinkle on toasted pumpkin seeds, and you’re all set for a satisfying meal. I bet that this will improve with age as it made enough to last us most of the week.
Pumpkin, Tomato and Chickpea Soup with Ras el Hanout
1 medium onion, cut in medium dice
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp ras el hanout (Moroccan spice mix)
3 c pumpkin puree (homemade or from a large can)
½-1 c tomato puree
4 c vegetable stock
1 tbsp turbinado or brown sugar
1 c cooked chickpeas with their liquid
Garnish: cilantro, pumpkin seeds
Saute the onion slowly in oil in a large saucepan until translucent. Add the spice mixture and stir to combine. Add the pumpkin and tomato purees and enough vegetable stock to thin out the puree. Cook over medium heat for about 30 minutes. Add salt and sugar to taste and then the chickpea liquid. Add more vegetable broth or water if the mixture is too thick. Cook for another 10 minutes. Puree in a food processor or with an immersion blender until smooth. Add the reserved chickpeas and reheat gently. Garnish with cilantro or pumpkin seeds. Makes 6-8 servings.