September 3, 2015

World Cuisine In a Bengali Kitchen: Mexican Pumpkin Flower Soup (Sopa Mexicana de flor de Calabaza)

"Squash flowers such as pumpkin and courgette are found in many recipes across South America. They are delicious, particularly when lightly cooked, in Spain, France and Italy, they crop up in all sorts of recipes." (P:100)
Pumpkin Soup, Pumpkin Pie, various curries out of Pumpkins so on and so forth - there are endless dishes that can be made out of Pumpkin. We all know, being a very versatile, most parts of the pumpkin are edible, including the fleshy shell, the seeds, the leaves, and even the flowers. But I never thought in my dreams (Yes, not exaggerating) that one could make such a piquantly pungent soup out of Pumpkin Flowers. I am always in love introducing the flavours of world cuisine in my little Bengali kitchen. When it comes to Pumpkin Flowers, being a Bengali I was brought up tasting only the batter fried pumpkin flowers, most often plucked from our garden. Even after shifting to Kolkata we bought Pumpkin flowers, fried it, dipping in a batter made out of a proportionate mixture of gram flour, all purpose flour and rice flour, till it was crispy and get a coat of a shiny golden hue. We, Bengalis, always need something to pair perfectly while having rice with dal. Say it a tarkari/chochori/dry curry or some oily fritters, a satisfactory meal will not be completed without this. Likewise our daily vegetable routine shopping, the Man bought a bunch of Pumpkin Flowers the other day. This time the Pumpkin Flowers were cooked with an exception. If we talk about the nutritional values of the Pumpkin Flowers, they do have some important vitamins like vitamin A and C and minerals.
From my recent collection of cook books, I was brought in with this recipe. From last few months I was reading on the flares of street food from all over the world with the meticulous accordance. I got acquainted with so many dishes that not only    astounded me but I loved the way the history and stories enfolded them. This Pumpkin Flower soup is basically a famous street food summer soup that widely gets sold in Mexico and its periphery at the street food counters and little cafes. According to Tom Kime, this is a traditional recipe that is fluxing through generation to generation for over almost hundreds of years without any changes in the recipe. The little cafes or the street food stalls would quickly whip up this saporous spicy soup, spiking up with the flavours of Green chilies and the lemon Juice. While cooking this easy dish I found that the main taste dwelt in the tanginess of the lemon juice with the commixture of the pepperiness of the chilies. I read few more articles stating this recipe and found many variations were made. Potato, zucchini, corn can also be used to make this soup. Even I found that there are many recipes on Pumpkin Flower, like stuffing it with cheese or prawns and then battered fried,  etc. So here is the recipe of Mexican Pumpkin Flower Soup (Sopa Mexicana de flor de Calabaza). Hope you will enjoy it.

{Recipe adapted from the book: Street Food by Tom Kime }
Ingredients:
(Yields 2 soup bowls)
Pumpkin Flowers or Courgette (Zucchini) Flowers - 12-14 (small)
Chicken/vegetable Stock - 3 cups (Less or more - See Notes)
Onion - 1 medium
Garlic - 1 tspn (finely Chopped)
Green Chilies - 2-3 (More or less)
Tomato - 2 small
Olive oil - 1 tspn + 1/2 tspn
Lemon Juice - out of 1 lemon
Salt & Balck Pepper as per taste
Method:
1. Discard the stems and the pistils of the Pumpkin Flowers finely chop, except 2-3 flower. Reserve.
2. Finely chop the onion. Grate the Tomato using a grater to get a nice pulp. Reserve.
3. Finely chop the green chilies.
4. Heat 1 tspn oil in a pan. Add the garlic and the chopped green chilies, keeping some for garnishing later.
5. Wait till the garlic turns brown, add the onion and fry till the onions are pale and golden brown. 
6. Add the tomato pulp and cook till it is well cooked.
7. Add the chopped pumpkin flowers and cook for 2 minutes. Cool it and then make puree of it in mixer grinder.
8. Now heat the remaining oil and fry the remaining whole pumpkin flowers till they are wilted and the parts are golden brown. Reserve.
9. Now Bring in to boil the chicken stock. Add the pumpkin flower puree, lemon juice and stir well. Add salt and Black pepper powder as per taste. Pour it in the soup bowls and garnish them with the whole pumpkin flowers and chopped green chilies.

Notes:
1. Make sure the soup tastes better when is semi-thick. Therefore add the chicken stock as per consistency. If it has become too runny then add some corn starch.

I have started this series of "World Cuisine in a Bengali Kitchen". Where I will share different recipes from the different part of the world, tried and tasted in my kitchen. The main goal will be keeping it healthy as much as possible.


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