Monday, 4 May 2015

A Trouble Free Way to Make Jamaican Pumpkin Soup

Nothing pleases a Jamaican’s heart, and satisfies hunger like a big bowl of Chicken or Beef Pumpkin soup for dinner on a Saturday evening. Growing up there, as I did, soup preparation was quite a lengthy procedure, staring in the morning with the ritual catching and killing the chicken, throwing boiling water over the carcass to make the removal of the feathers easier (so gross), gutting the bird (even more gross), cleaning it with limes picked from the ubiquitous lime tree in the yard, chopping up the chicken, then boiling it for hours to make the stock as rich, and nourishing as possible.  Living in the US , that way of cooking is just not possible. I doubt it is even still possible in Jamaica, given the busy lives most people now live there.

This means that the recipe has to be adapted to try and get the long cooking process made as labor (and worry) free as possible, and then just having a short finishing time to bring the meal to table. I have modified the method but sacrificed none of the flavor thanks to a 6 quart slow cooker, roasted chicken from Costco, and packets of Grace Chicken Noodle Soup, and Grace Cock Soup, now available in many mainstream American and UK based supermarkets. The slow cooker does the work during the day, and does not have to be carefully monitored like you would have to with a pot boiling away on the stove. The soup is finished on the stove, in a stock pot. That takes about 20 minutes, maybe less. In addition, from one Costco Chicken, I get seven meals (I remove both leg quarters and have those as separate meals). The chicken is a 4 lb bird, and at $US5, that’s hard to beat. You can work out the cost yourselves.

The pumpkin that forms the base is not the US type pumpkin; it is the Caribbean or Central American variety which is simply called “Pumpkin” in the English speaking Caribbean, and “Calabaza Amarilla or Calabaza Centroamericana” in the Latino stores in the US. This is to differentiate it from “Calabaza Mexicana” which is a green, squash like vegetable but which many Latino stores, especially Mexican owned, refer to as just “Calabaza”. So, if you were to go to a Mexican store and not ask specifically for “Calabaza Amarilla”, you would end up being shown the Mexican Squash. I have not added any starchy, root vegetables like Yam, or Malanga to the soup (this is a low carb version) but these could be added at the finishing stage if desired. They would have to be peeled just before use as they oxidize, and darken quickly when exposed to air.

So this is my compromise that gives me my pumpkin soup on a Saturday, and many Saturdays after, thanks to the portions that I freeze!

Some ingredients you will need:

1 Roasted Chicken, breast and wings (from any supermarket, Walmart etc)
64 Fl oz chicken stock
1 medium sized tin of corn
1 Scotch Bonnet or Habanero Pepper
1-2 Spicy Andouille Sausages (I like the "Ragin Cajun" brand), sliced (I used to use a smoked ham hock but found it made the soup too greasy. I would imagine that smoked turkey neck bones or a smoked turkey wing would be a safe substitute if you don’t want the soup too spicy. That however is not an option for me!)
1-2 lbs Pumpkin, washed, peeled, cubed
1 medium onion
2-3 Ripe, red, Roma/Plum tomatoes
3-4 green onions
3 cloves garlic, peeled
1 Chayote (Cho-Cho) Squash, and 2 Medium Carrots, all peeled and cut into chunks (put these in the fridge until ready to finish the soup).
Some fresh or dried thyme sprigs
A couple of whole Allspice grains
1 packet of Grace Cock Soup
1-2 Packets Grace Chicken Noodle soup

  1. Put the chicken breast and wings in the crock pot, and add the chicken stock and drained tinned corn. Turn the slow cooker to high and cover.
  2. In a food processor, chop the pumpkin, onion, garlic, and green onions. Place in a bowl with the thyme and Allspice grains. Do the same for the Roma tomatoes. Process those to a puree. Place in a separate bowl.
  3. Put a little oil in a suitable sized frying pan and when hot, sauté the sausage for a minute of two. Add the chopped onion mixture, sauté for another minute or so, and then add the tomato puree. Once all start to bubble, add to the chicken and broth already in the slow cooker. Throw in the whole Habanero or Scotch Bonnet pepper, cover and leave this all to cook for 6 hours on high while you go and do other stuff.
  4. Six hours later, turn off the slow cooker, and transfer the contents to a stockpot or large saucepan. Remove the meat from the chicken, and shred or cube the meat. Discard the bones.  Put the stockpot with the broth and meat on the stove and bring to a boil. Remove the Habanero pepper taking care not to burst it, add the carrots and Chayote squash, and also the packets of Grace soup. Taste after you have added 2 packets to determine whether you need to add the other. Stir vigorously while adding the soup packets to prevent the soup mix from clumping then lower the heat and simmer for about 20 minutes. Stir occasionally….and that’s it! Soup is ready with a minimum of effort!

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