The world is often unkind to new talent, new creations. Last night, I experienced something new, an extraordinary meal from a singularly unexpected source. To say that both the meal and its maker have challenged my preconceptions about fine cooking is a gross understatement. In the past, I have made no secret of my disdain for Chef Gusteau’s famous motto: Anyone can cook. But I realize, only now do I truly understand what he meant. Not everyone can become a great artist, but a great artist can come from anywhere.
- Ratatouille (2007)
There are three things I distinctly remember about watching this movie five years ago. The first was that when it came out, no one could pronounce “Ratatouille” right (Pixar had to spell its pronunciation out on the movie posters), let alone know what it was or what it tasted like. Two, that I could not stop giggling for most of the movie, and that I was laughing harder and louder than any kid in the audience. I might even have been shushed.
But most of all I remember the feeling of possibility it gave me, a then 18-year-old who’d barely touched a stove most of her life, a consequence of growing up with a nanny who cooked everything and living in a country where you can a good meal out for $2. I could feel the buzz and itch in my fingers. I cooked my first proper dish that week – cream of broccoli. There was waaaay too much salt (the concept of “season to taste” had not occurred to me yet), but still! ”Anyone can cook!”
It’s only fitting then, that my first recipe post on this blog will be as simple as simple can get. You don’t need terrifyingly fast knife skills. You don’t need to cut all your pieces in a uniform size. You can screw up the recipe halfway, but still fix it later.
And at the end of it, you’ll still have a damn fine dinner to serve your family on a cold winter night.
Spiced Pumpkin & Sweet Potato Soup
1 butternut pumpkin, peeled & deseeded
1 medium orange sweet potato, peeled
3 carrots, sliced
2 medium onions, sliced
3 garlic cloves, smashed
Coriander, Cumin, and Curry powder
Vegetable stock (homemade = always better)
Heavy cream or full-cream milk
Preheat oven to 220 degrees C.
Cut pumpkin and sweet potato into large cubes. Toss with carrots, onions, garlic and as much olive oil as you see fit in a baking tray. Season with salt, pepper, and the trio of powders – you can vary each according to how you’d like the final result to taste.
Roast for 20-30 minutes until soft and slightly caramelised.
Remove from baking tray and transfer to large saucepan. Add several cups vegetable stock. I added just enough to cover the roasted vegetables in the pot. Bring to the boil, then let simmer for a few minutes.
Use an immersion blender to puree the mix, or if you don’t have one, ladle into a stand blender and whizz it up in batches.
Add more cream or milk till it reaches your desired consistency.
Spoon into bowls, top with some toasted pepitas, or if you have the time, homemade garlic sourdough croutons.