Pumpkin Soup with Labneh Dip
FEATURING MONJAY MEZZA’S LABNEH DIP
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On January 1, 1804, after more than 12 years of revolution, the Haitians overthrew the French and claimed their independence. Today, they celebrate this milestone with pumpkin soup. Yes, humble, comforting pumpkin soup.
Back in the time of Saint-Domingue, though, when the French ruled the small Caribbean country with an iron fist, pumpkin soup wasn’t so humble. It was a symbol of power, wealth and division, a delicacy fit only for the French slave masters, forbidden fruit to all others. After the Haitians threw out the French and established their republic, this dish took on new meaning; it became a symbol of independence. Since then, January 1 doesn’t pass without the consumption of soup joumou.
Variations of pumpkin soup are plentiful. The Haitian edition, with bone marrow and meat, is almost more beef stew than it is soup (and that’s not a complaint), while others, like that found in Thailand, contain chilli and coconut milk. Add rice and star anise for a Chinese twist, curry paste for an Indian kick. Top with grilled chorizo and red capsicum for Spanish flair.
Our version comes with the beautiful savoury notes of caraway and cumin, which we think work wonders next to the sweetness of pumpkin. While adding an extra step, roasting the pumpkin is essential; it extracts moisture and intensifies the flavour. Finished with Monjay’s labneh, it’s soul-soothing stuff.
- 2 kg pumpkin, peeled and chopped
- 2 onions
- 4 fat garlic cloves, skins on
- Olive oil
- 2 tsp caraway seeds
- 2 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 tsp fennel seeds
- 2 litres chicken stock (or vegetable)
- Monjay Mezza’s Labneh
How to Prepare
Set the oven to 200°.
Place the pumpkin chunks into a large bowl. Cut the roots off the onions and slice the onions in half, leaving the skins on, and add to the pumpkin along with the garlic cloves. Pour over a generous glug of olive oil and sprinkle with a teaspoon of salt and a few grinds of the pepper mill.
Heat a small frying pan and toast the seeds until they become fragrant and slightly coloured, 2 to 3 minutes. Be vigilant, as whole spices taken too far exchange their aroma and flavour for bitterness. Lightly crush the spices in a mortar and pestle; no need to aim for a fine powder, we’re just cracking them open.
Add the spices to the pumpkin mix and toss it all together. Spread out in a single layer on a roasting tray lined with baking paper and bake for 40-50 minutes. They’re done when a skewer slips through the pumpkin like a needle through an eyeball.
Slip the skins off the softened, caramelised onions and denude the garlic cloves by squeezing them gently, then tip all the veg into a large saucepan and add the stock. Bring to the boil and then take off the heat. Wait for it to cool a little and blend until smooth. A standing blender will make a smoother soup, but a stick blender is easier to clean. Make your choice.
Ladle into bowls and dollop with Monjay’s Labne. Heaven.
Tip For added texture and flavour, fry sage leaves in a French amount of salted butter until they’re crispy and the butter is golden brown. Scatter the leaves over the bowls of pumpkin soup and pour over the burnt butter.
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