Just Another Pumpkin (soup)

JAP pumpkins- Just Another Pumpkin or Japanese pumpkin. I’ve been calling them Japanese pumpkins my whole professional life. That’s what my suppliers have always called them and I’ve never thought twice about it.
Until today.
Today my mother started to read my blog and the first thing she pulled me up on was the use of ‘Japanese’ in a previous post. Mum has spent her life thinking it stands for Just Another Pumpkin. She is not alone in this.
I’ve researched a little on the web and with some fruiterers, nobody has a definitive answer as to which one is right.
I don’t really mind which one it is.
Old wives’ tale or historical anomaly? It all tastes the same -sweet and nutty.
You can read my theory on it after we’ve done some cooking and shared a couple of ideas with you for the Jap pumpkin.

Pumpkin Soup – makes a couple of litres

pumpkin ingredients

Ingredients – we’re going to puree this so it doesn’t matter too much how you chop these. Aim for even sizes.
1 good wedge of Jap/Kent pumpkin (about a kilo)-peeled and chopped – use a sharp knife or a very good peeler. Wash it first.
1 medium brown onion – peeled and chopped
4-5 cloves garlic – peeled and chopped
1 litre of chicken or vegetable stock
2 tablespoons sour cream



In a heavy based pot or sauce pan add a little olive oil or butter or both. Sweat the onions and garlic with a little salt until translucent. Add the pumpkin and cook over a low heat until it begins to soften, stirring along the way. Now put a lid on it and let it really break down (just don’t let it catch on the bottom). This is where we can gain maximum flavour from the pumpkin as they are full of natural sugar. When the pumpkin is soft add the stock and simmer until the pumpkin is completely broken down. Add the sour cream and process with a little salt and pepper.

Jazz it up
There are so many ways to give this soup a little something extra. Here’s just a few ideas.
* Add a little red curry paste at the beginning and finish with some coriander
* Fresh ginger and a little mustard or curry powder
* Replace some stock with coconut cream
* Replace the chicken stock with fish or prawn stock and garnish with some seafood and yoghurt
* For a great vegan option, replace the sour cream with some silken tofu and blend
* Check my Potato Soup post and try the same variations
* Let your mind wander. Or just keep it simple and serve it straight up with a little sour cream and bread. I do.


What Else?

Roast pumpkin is great right. Pumpkin roasted with honey, lemon juice, olive oil , a little nutmeg and rosemary is even better.
Leftover roast pumpkin matches well with feta and pine nuts in a salad or on a pizza
Hommus is great too. Make/buy some hommus and blend it with some leftover roast pumpkin for a tasty dip or salad sandwich saver.
Pumpkin seeds (pepitas) are really tasty and good for you too. Roast them in a moderate oven for no more than 20 minutes. Apparently after this time the good oil in them loses some nutritional value. I eat them on yoghurt at breakfast.

Try making this one –
Pumpkin Seed Pesto
Pepita pesto
1 cup toasted pepitas,1 brown onion, 4 cloves garlic, 1 cup of coriander leaves,1/2 teaspoon cumin powder, 1/2 teaspoon sumac, 1 juicy lemon, 1/2 cup olive oil.
-Sauté the onion, garlic and cumin in a little of the oil. Transfer to a food processor and blend with all the other ingredients until pasty.

What Kid Did
Kid loved the soup. She said it reminds her of the pumpkin soup at sizzler but better. Thanks kid, high praise indeed. Kid spread the pepita pesto on some tortillas and grated cheese on top. Then I baked them like pizza breads. Pretty good. There wasn’t much else for kid to do here, she was busy getting her Hermione costume ready for Book Day at school tomorrow. They drink pumpkin juice in the Harry Potter stories apparently. No, I’m not trying that one thanks kid.


What we call a Jap pumpkin is also called a Kent pumpkin. The Kent is a style of Japanese pumpkin called Kabocha. I have a theory that they were always called Jap pumpkins here but at some point ( during the war maybe) it became unfashionable for them to be known as Japanese and were re-branded as Just Another Pumpkin.
It’s just a theory and I’m happy to hear others.
I spoke to a guy today who pointed out that if it is Just Another Pumpkin, we would just call them JAPs. Not JAP pumpkins. It’s like saying ATM machine. Or PIN number.
However it came about, thanks for the story Mum X

Black Eye Pea Gumbo -boom boom pow!

So up until recently I’d spent a couple of years moonlighting at a market stall making Paella. My Chilean boss there loved to play music on the stereo and couldn’t start the day without a dance. For the first year we listened to the Cat Empire every Saturday and then the second year we got the Black Eyed Peas. My other market friends and I would roll our eyes at each other every time but I tell you what, that stuff sticks. After 2 years working with Patricia, also a Spanish language teacher, I am more fluent in the Black Eyed Peas ( much to my chagrin) than I will ever be in that beautiful tongue.

I was shopping at my local health food store and spotted some black eye beans ( they are called peas in the Americas) and felt inspired. Gumbo came straight to mind.
Gumbo is a stewy soup style concoction from the deep south in the USA that is prepared in a variety of ways. Often it has lots of meats , sausage and seafood in it. Some make it spicy, others make it brothy and others like it real chunky. Either way there are a few basics of this dish that make it gumbo. Capsicums, onions, garlic, and celery form the base with the addition of spices, stock and okra. I was after a good winter vegetable fix, it’s getting chilly in these parts. I’ve just added a little pancetta for flavour.

Let’s get it started!

Black Eyed Pea Gumbo- makes about 2.5 litres

2 sticks celery diced
1 red or green capsicum – deseeded and diced
5 cloves garlic – crushed
1 medium brown onion -diced
1 litre chicken stock
6 okra beans – sliced
200 grams green beans – sliced
100gm pancetta or bacon-chopped
250gm dried black eyed beans – soaked overnight and well drained
100gm barley – soaked overnight and well drained
2 ripe tomatoes
1 bunch continental parsley- washed and chopped.
2 long green chillies -deseeded and sliced- depends how hot the kids will take it. This won’t be spicy.
1 teaspoon fennel seeds -toasted
1 teaspoon cumin seeds – tosted
1 teaspoon mustard powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice
3 bay leaves – dried is fine but fresh is always best. I happily have a bay tree in my backyard.


Using a soup pot or big sauce pan, start by sweating the onions, celery, capsicums, and garlic over a low heat until soft. Next add the spices ( whole spices in tea strainer), pancetta, barley and okra. Continue cooking until fragrant. Next add the peas and stock. Simmer gently until the peas and barley are tender. About 30-40 mins is plenty of time. Add the green beans and chopped tomato, cook until the beans are just soft. Season with a little salt, pepper and the chopped parsley.
Gumbo is traditionally served over rice with some crusty French stick on the side.

The Wash Up
I enjoyed the gumbo a lot. I gotta feeling you will too.It’s a really healthy and hearty way to get a good vegetable fix and was awesome to come home to late at night after work. It’s a pretty tame version compared to other gumbos I’ve eaten so if you need to add spice go ahead. I added a little of my own hot sauce to mine. Kid enjoyed a squeeze of lemon over hers.

What Kid Did – Kid took the seeds out of the capsicum, rinsed the peas and barley off after soaking, picked and washed parsley, picked beans, asked why I’m doing a black eyed pea blog and not a Katy Perry blog ( really kid, where is the love?), stirred, hung out with me, taste tested.

Pump It!
This is a really versatile dish, you can do so much with it.
Add spicy sausage, leftover roast chicken or pork, chillies, prawns, crab, fish or whatever really.
If you want a good vegetarian version leave out the pancetta and replace the stock with veg stock or water.
Vegan baby- as above.
As I mentioned, this dish comes from the Deep South where Creole and Cajun rule.
There is also a heavy French influence in the food and culture.
Cajun is actually a shortening of the word Acadian. The French speaking Acadians were deported by the British in colonial days from Canada to Louisiana.
You could use  any dried bean for this. Peas, carrots, spinach, sweet potato or other vegetables would fit in here too.
Okra – Okra is pretty easy to find. They have a mild spice to them and a gelatinous texture which helps to thicken the soup.They need about 30 mins of cooking to achieve this.
They are also lovely deep fried btw. But what isn’t?

Peace Out!

Potato Soup (yep, potato soup.)

Here’s another for the ‘Five Items’ file. Potato soup is about the most basic of soups you could come across. But it doesn’t haven’t to be bland or boring or even too creamy or rich. Even with just 5 ingredients you can put together a winner. Potato soup can be a hearty, tasty meal in a bowl and is very easy to pimp out with some extra goodies (see below).

Ingredients – 1.5kg dutch cream potatoes , 2 small or 1 med to large brown onion, 6 cloves of garlic (use as much or little as you prefer), 500ml of vegetable stock (I’ve used a salt reduced tetra pack), 100ml cream.

HOW– Wash the spuds if necessary. Peel them using a knife. Put the skins aside for now. Slice them about 1cm across. Peel and slice the onions and garlic. In a heavy based sauce pan heat a little oil or butter and sweat the onions and garlic with a little salt until soft and translucent. Add your potatoes. Now you need to keep sweating the vegetables over a low to moderate heat until the potatoes are just starting to soften. Add stock and simmer gently until the spuds are cooked through. Turn it off, add the cream and process with whatever means you have available. Taste it. It will probably need some seasoning, depends on you.

Skins – Just leave this out if you can’t be bothered or watch kids eyes light up when they realise there is pretty much chips going with this soup. Pat the skins dry on some paper towel. Toss in a bowl with a little olive oil and salt. Bake them on a tray with parchment on 180*. It takes probably half an hour and you’ll need to check them and turn them at least once. When they start looking golden and crispy, remove from the oven , drain on paper towel and serve with the soup. Yum.

What Kid Did – Not much to do for her here apart from wash the spuds. She used a clean green scourer and cold water. Kid watched me make the soup and enjoyed the hell out of the whole meal. Chips included.

Pimp your soup – 
Add washed and chopped leeks or fennel at the onion stage.

Sprinkle crumbled fetta, chopped nuts , toasted pumpkin seeds or chilli flakes on top as you serve.

Keep it vegetarian or add some bacon, ham or chicken for extra flavour and protein.

Leave out cream and butter for a vegan option.


Spinach leaves folded in just before the processing stage gives you a vibrant green colour and all those nutrients.

Add fresh herbs – basil, parsley, dill or mint are all good extras. Add them at the end before processing or chop and sprinkle on top.

A runny poached egg dropped in the soup with some dukkah on top really adds a touch of style.

Which Potato is that?

It may or may not surprise you to know that there are hundreds of different varieties of potato in the world. For this soup I have used Dutch Creams. Partly because they are readily available to me from my local fruiterer and  make good soup but also because they are my favourite potato. Yes, I have a favourite potato. Do you have a favourite potato? Potatoes differ in texture – starchy or waxy, in taste – some are sweet and nutty others are creamy and savoury. This affects the way they cook and the style of cooking they are most suited too. You should ask the fruiterer about the potatoes you are buying. Here is a link to some more info on potatoes.http://www.moraitis.com.au/our-produce/potatoes.html

Enjoy the soup!


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