Tuesday, July 18, 2006

A Very Hungry Caterpillar

The current weather of Buenos Aires has not helped to lift my mood. It has been grey and humid for weeks; I feel a dampness settling in my bones which is encouraging a not so desirable tendency in me to cocoon in my study, in front of the computer.

This cocooning, however, has yielded unexpected results. I have discovered a number of expat bloggers in Buenos Aires! Laura from Moving to Argentina pointed me to TalloVerde, a much more organised organic grocery outfit from which one can order on-line. I am definitely going to enquire about deliveries to the city centre.
(Note: after I have decided to stop dealing with El Rincon Organico, a fellow ex-El Rinconer has told me the organic selection at Jumbo has improved greatly. I am keeping my fingers crossed that, for the benefit and security of the customers, the Organic Movement in BA would soon take shape so the critical mass would be able squeeze out the less professional operators)

With much excitement to be had in front of the computer, this hungry caterpillar only ventures out of her study on calls of nature such as at 1:45pm today, Guillermo stepped out of his home office and returned "home" in search of lunch only to find me still in my Juicy tracks typing away on the keyboard. I could offer only one quick solution, ha! a very good one nonetheless...pumpkin soup.

I have been constantly reminded of the presence of Diana's organic pumpkin in the kitchen because of the sheer giganticness of it. So it is only natural that we should enjoy this harvest as soon as we can. It is not a Japanese pumpkin which the Argentines call Kokkaido after a province of the same name in Japan. It is oblong in shape but is neither a butternut. Diana, my much in demand masseuse, told me the seeds came in an envelope from her sister in Mainland China. However, she too was surprised by her accidentally organic produce since they never grow to this size over there.

I only used a sliver of the vibrant flesh since the whole pumpkin which Diana carried on her 2 hour journey from home to Buenos Aires City probably weighs more than 5 kg – people are often misled by her slender frame and femininity but apart from her huge hands, this lady really is a tower of strength.

I was pressed for time to feed two very hungry adults so I just put some chopped pumpkin in a pot filled with water and added some grated ginger, a clove of garlic and seasoning. In about 30min, this work in progress was ready to be transformed into a healthy and scrumptious lunch. As I was liquidising it with my much exercised Braun Stick, I knew instinctively this soup was going to have a lovelier texture than my usual butternut version.

Without hinting to Guillermo my hunch, I put a bowl of this wholesome sustanence, in bright orange, in front of him. After one spoonful he declared the soup exceptional. Without much effort, it looked and tasted like some velouté from a Marco Pierre White cookbook. After this accidental "gourmet" meal, we had to have an equally impressive last course.

Over the weekend, I was lucky enough to receive a couple of bars of Green & Black's organic dark chocolate with orange and spices from our lovely Irish friend who has just returned from Ireland. These smoky, tangy, luscious dark slabs are Guillermo's and my favourite. A square of this glorious Mayan harvest is the perfect finish to our rather virtuous lunch.

To help use up this amazing bounty, I have found a pumpkin bread recipe which can be made as muffins too.

2 cups plain flour
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup vegetable oil
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups shredded fresh pumpkin
1 cup toasted pumpkin seeds

Preheat the oven to 170C.

Sift the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together.

In a separate bowl, mix the sugar, vegetable oil, eggs, and vanilla. Combine both mixtures and fold in the shredded pumpkin and pumpkin seeds. Once the ingredients are all incorporated pour into a non- stick 9 by 5 by 3-inch loaf pan. If your pan is not non- stick coat it with butter and flour.

Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes. At this point a knife inserted into the middle of the loaf should come out clean. Cool for 15 minutes and turn out onto a cooling rack. Cool completely.

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