I can already imagine myself in about two hours. I’ll be sitting here, with a plate of hot steamy pumpkin soup, which is delicious and very much local produce. Next to it I’ll have a plate with a cut up baguette. Which is French, but baked somewhere in the Netherlands, so that’s produced locally. Though God only knows where the ingredients come from. But for now I’ll count it as local produce. Because the biggest sin is about to be committed. I dip the piece of bread in the soup, and I sprinkle a bit of cheese over it. Cheese could be a very Dutch product. There’s a lot of milk and a lot of dairy products in my teeny tiny little country. But, not this cheese. I am a total sucker for Gran Padano cheese. I have no idea where exactly this Padano-place is, but it must be heavenly there. All I know is that it ain’t here. A little piece of it is here, but not the big booming lovely place of Padano itself. That’s somewhere in the divine country of Italy. So, Italy is in Europe, so it’s kind of local on a global scale, right? Sigh, I should move there. I really should. I should be lying in the sun underneath an olive tree, munching away on some local Italian baker’s bread, covered in Gran Padano cheese. Please?
So, let’s snap back to reality. Said soup, which is very Dutch and local and good, I’ve made it before. And when I did I swore it was divine. It was heavenly. Which is odd, since it’s not Italian, but Dutch, but, there it was, divine and heavenly soup. The thing is, right now, there is no soup. There is half a pumpkin, there’s a carrot, there’s onions and garlic… there’s just ingredients. Which is good, I can make soup, you know. Hmm. Well. There might be one tiny itsy bitsy of a problem here. In the past few days, or weeks, or maybe even months, all foodstuffs I have tried to produce (cook, bake) myself, have been… let’s just be honest here, not quite good enough to meet my own standards. Ok, so, I have high standards. If it’s not divine, I just won’t have it. You see, the needy hungry children in Africa (a Dutch parents’ favorite threat when children just won’t eat), they’d love this soup. They’d love the baguette and the cheese. They’d kill to switch places. But I’m not them. I’m the spoiled brat who has to cook her own meal and knows that everything she’s tried to make herself has been a total disaster. Except most of the times I made scrambled eggs. But then again, what could possibly go wrong with scrambled eggs? Well, let’s just say that I have been able to f*** them up nicely recently. In ways that have made me stay away from the eggs for a considerable time. And now I’m doing soup? Yes, today, I’m attacking the pumpkin soup. And it better be good, because I’m on the verge of losing my cooking mind here. I’m just warning the bloody pumpkin before he’s cooked, that should work, right?
Ok, so, it’s more than three hours later, and it took me two and a half to finally get to the finished product (I waste a lot of time reading this and that, doing something here, or like today: cleaning up the kitchen so it’s workable, I have a very tiny kitchen, but it takes me ages). But my! Does this soup rock! Right now it’s rocking my insides like a maniac, but that’s only because I totally stuffed myself. I know no limits when the food is good. Only after I’ve finished do I realize that limits should have been the way to go, but on hindsight I’m always a very, very clever girl.
First I fried the onions and the garlic in some olive oil (yes, that’s not local produce either, it’s Italian, did I express my love for Italian food already?). I poured 0,5L water over it, added the bouillon (broth) ingredients (a neat rectangular salty spiced dissoluble thingy, I wouldn’t know how to make my own bouillon, honestly). I chopped like mad to get the very stubborn pumpkin sliced up in nice *cough* and small *cough* pieces (I leave the skin, I once cleared the entire pumpkin from its skin, that took me over an hour and apparently you don’t need to, so I stopped bothering long, long time ago). I chopped the half of one very big carrot into pieces, threw everything in with the boiling water with onions. And let it cook for about 20 minutes. In the mean time I sliced my baguette (bread, but also more fancy in French) into nice thin slices, I buttered them and… I ate them. This always happens to me. You always get bread in restaurants; while they’re cooking away to feed you, they give you some nice little breads, some olive oil and fresh butter. And me? I’m eating away, stuffing myself like I’m the Thanksgiving turkey. It’s great to live in a country where there’s no such thing as Thanksgiving and we rarely eat turkeys or chickens that require stuffing. So I’m in the clear and I can just stuff away with my buttered bread. Which is what I did while my pumpkin was cooking. Because I was to serve the soup with some nice cheese, I decided to try out all the cheeses I bought today. And I bought a lot of cheese. Sinful cheese. Yes, the only thing you might want to skip if you’re making this pumpkin soup and you’re very dedicated to the world and only eating local produce… would be the cheese. Unless you’re Swiss or Italian and still living in your respective country. But if you’re a sinner like me, well, you just don’t care, you butter your bread and get your cheeses. Do it now, because I’ll say ‘cheese’ so very often that you will die if you don’t take the only natural antidote: real cheese!
I started my sinful cheesing with Emmentaler. Which comes from Switzerland. So it’s European, but not very local. Emmentaler cheese tastes great on a buttered slice of baguette. Even though the French and the Swiss don’t regularly get along in the real world, they do on your plate. Which is great! Then I had this little pièce de resistance called Passendale. I have no idea where it’s from, I’m just guessing it’s not Dutch because they sold it in miniature pieces and the price I payed was quite astronomical. Besides that, the Dutch don’t make a cheese like that. They… er… we don’t. I have no idea how to make cheese, but I’m Dutch, though with this Passendale cheese I wish I wasn’t, so I could say ‘they’. Maybe it’s just principles talking. You know, one of these Dutch guys saying ‘No, we cannot make a cheese that frivolous, that wonderful and that divine for the taste buds. It’s undutch! We just cannot do it!’ (somehow I prefer picturing a Frenchman with a baguette saying this) All I have to say is: we just wish we were first and we’d make a kick ass cheese like that! Passendale cheese is great! Greater than any Dutch cheese I’ve tasted. Ok, so now I’m googling ‘Passendale’ just to make sure it really isn’t Dutch, but more like English. The only good English cheese or something. Just so I can say that I have the only really great cheese the English make, in my friggin’ fridge right now. I just hope it’s not German, or Swiss. *frantic googling* No! I cannot believe it! It’s even better! It’s Belgian! No way! But YES, it’s Belgian! Wow. Great cheese! (It even tastes better now that I know that I have some really great Belgian cheese in my fridge. Ha!)
So, the Emmentaler and Passendale cheese were great on my buttered bread. So I decided to step down from the ‘mild’ cheese and get to the ‘extra pittig’ (god knows how I should translate that, it’s the tasty opposite to ‘mild’, which means the same both in English and in Dutch): Gruyère cheese! Which is also Swiss cheese (you might not know, so I’m being the thoughtful educator here). My butter liked it, my bread liked it and oh, yes!, my watering mouth liked it, too.
On to the rock hard cheeses I also brought along. They were all Italian. You should know I have a weakness for Italian food, did I mention that already? I can’t think of anything coming out of any Italian kitchen that I wouldn’t like. But most of it I’ll just love, really, the come to mama-kind of love. I know this cheese, the Grana Padano, and this cheese is my personal best friend (I know I already mentioned its divinity, but I’ll mention it again, and again). I could live on Grana Padano. I don’t need anything else. So I bought a wedge of it. And then I went nuts and bought the two other Italian cheeses that were lying next to it as well. One called Parmigiano and the other is called Pecorino. I put all of these on some buttered bread, just to try. Remember, the pumpkin was still simmering, and I had time. So I stood there, at my counter, gulfing down these slices of bread covered in Parmigiano. And I loved it! So I covered the next slice with Pecorino. And I loved it! I could barely believe my taste buds. So I made the next slice with Grana Padano and I entered heaven. I love it when that happens. Just standing in the kitchen, waiting for the pumpkin to be done cooking, eating away at some buttered bread and cheese and all of a sudden you hear angels singing and you float away to someplace else. Thank God I set the timer, which rang me back to my pumpkin soup reality.
After I tried to force the pumpkin bits into submission with a fork, I grabbed my stick blender. And it did the job nicely. I recommend it. But I also recommend to have the cover ready and install it immediately after you’re done blending. The soup is now thick and right before you turned off the heat and stuck in the stick blender, it was cooking. (This is how I tell myself where and when I messed up, which of course, despite the divineness of the soup, I did, at least once, let’s just say the soup didn’t suffer much from my messing up. It’s a good soup all by itself.) And cooking substances have the tendency to say ‘blob’ or ‘blub’. They’re boiling, actually. Yes, and when a thicker substance than water boils, it says ‘blob’ in a more fervent way. It explodes all over your kitchen. I’m just saying: don’t let it happen to you. You know, it’s messy. And it’s such a waste to have to clean the divine soup off the floor. You know. I might’ve cried a little if I hadn’t been such a rock hard soul.
Add some cream cheese, some cooking cream, parsley and thyme. Stir it, serve it. And don’t forget the divine buttered bread and cheese.
It was a trip straight into heaven, the butter, the cheese, the bread (which I already knew to be a great combination), and the soup. Oh, the soup! It was creamy, it was tasty, it was beautifully orange. It was just right. My taste buds loved it, and so did the rest of me.
One big carrot
1 clove of garlic
Cream cheese (I always use Philadelphia)
Cooking cream (I use soy cream, from Alpro (which is a Belgian brand))
Dice onions and garlic, fry them in a bit of butter or olive oil. Pour in the bouillon before they turn brown. Add the diced up pumpkin and carrot. Let it cook for about 20 minutes. Turn off the heat and use a stick blender (fork will do, it will take longer and leave more texture) to mash up the pumpkin and carrot. Add a chunk of cream cheese, parsley, thyme and some cooking cream. Serve it with buttered bread.
How Local? (distances travelled to my kitchen)
pumpkin, carrot, onions and garlic: 4,5 km
olive oil: 1000km (wild guess, it could be from anywhere, it doesn’t say on the bottle)
Passendale cheese: 200 km (birdflight)
Emmentaler cheese: 600 km (birdflight)
Gruyère cheese: 610 km (birdflight)
Pecorino Romano cheese: 1400 km (birdflight)
Grana Padano cheese: 1000 km (birdflight)
Parmigiano Reggiano (parmesan) cheese: 950 km (birdflight)
Philadelphia cream cheese: ? (could be anywhere)