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Diana Henry's pumpkin & mussel soup
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This, based on a soup I had in Normandy, is glorious. It has the very best of the season in it and I love its sweet-salty balance. It’s rich so don’t feel that it isn’t ‘enough’ for a main course – it is. Perfect for a Saturday lunch.
125g unsalted butter
2 large leeks, trimmed, cut into rounds and washed
1 large onion, roughly chopped
1.5kg pumpkin or squash, peeled, deseeded and cut into chunks
1 stick celery, diced
2 cloves garlic, finely sliced
100ml dry vermouth
200ml dry white wine
25g pack parsley, stalks reserved, leaves chopped
Fish or chicken stock, if needed
100-125ml double cream
Lemon juice, to taste
1 Melt 50g of the butter in a large heavy-bottomed pan and add the leeks and two-thirds of the onion. Cook over a medium heat for about 4 minutes, turning the vegetables over, then add a splash of water and a little salt, turn the heat down, cover and allow to sweat for about 20 minutes, stirring them every so often and making sure the vegetables stay nice and moist. They should become very soft.
2 Add another 50g of butter to the pan and stir in the squash, turning it around in the juices, season, cover and continue to sweat the vegetables for another 20 minutes or so (again, keep an eye on how moist they are).
3 Wash the mussels, pulling off any little beards you see. As you wash them, tap each mussel on the side of the sink. Throw away any that don’t close when you do this.
4 Melt the remaining butter in another large pan and gently sauté the celery, the rest of the onion and garlic until soft but not coloured. Add the cleaned mussels, the vermouth and white wine, the parsley stalks and some pepper. Bring the liquid to a simmer, cover the pan and cook the mussels for about 4 minutes, or until the mussels have opened, shaking the pan a couple of times while cooking.
5 Strain the mussels, collecting the cooking liquor, through a muslin-lined sieve. Taste the cooking liquor. If it’s very salty don’t use all of it. If necessary, make it up to 1.2 litres with water, fish
or chicken stock.
6 Add the mussel stock to the vegetables and bring to a boil. Add pepper (you’re unlikely to need salt) and simmer until the pumpkin flesh is completely soft. Let this cool before you purée it. Add the cream (you might not want to use all of it as it is rich).
7 Remove about three-quarters of the mussels from their
shells, discarding any that haven’t opened. Stir the mussel meat and the mussels in their shells into the soup. Gently heat through, stirring in the chopped parsley leaves. If the soup is too thick add a little more stock or water. Taste to check the seasoning and add a squeeze of lemon if needed – sometimes it just pulls all the flavours together. Serve in warm bowls, or pour into a big heated soup tureen (this looks so good if you have one).
Typical values per serving: