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Spices give pumpkin a kick in the pants

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Mrs. Penner's Red Borscht

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

Mrs. Penner's Red Borscht Photo Store

A few weeks ago, Lori Hartle wrote in looking for a borscht recipe similar to the version served at Penner Foods on Henderson Highway in the late 1990s. Joan Cudmore of Gimli found Mrs. Penner's own borscht recipe in a Penner Foods cookbook published in 1990. And Margaret Sucharov wrote in this week with a timely pumpkin recipe.

A lot of pumpkins are being used for Halloween decorations right now, but they can also make for delicious eating. (Margaret buys them up in October because they're hard to find during the rest of the year.) This family favourite is infused with incredible, aromatic South Asian spices, the kind that warrant a trip to a specialty store like Scoop n' Weigh, where you can buy everything you need in just the amount you want.

Linda Lapointe is looking for an apple pie recipe that might have been in the Winnipeg Tribune many years ago. Her mother used to make this version of the classic pie, which features grated apples and a crust that is similar to shortbread. And Lynda Quinn would like a good basic baked macaroni and cheese -- nothing fancy, she writes, just a "plain, old-fashioned, homemade" version.

If you can help with a recipe request, have your own request, or a favourite recipe you'd like to share, send an email to recipeswap@ freepress.mb.ca, fax it to 204-697-7412, or write to Recipe Swap, c/o Alison Gillmor, Winnipeg Free Press, 1355 Mountain Ave. Winnipeg, MB, R2X 3B6. Please include your first and last name, address and telephone number.

 

Mrs. Penner's Red Borscht

1.5 kg (3 lbs) soup beef

4 large onions, coarsely chopped

1 cabbage (about 1 l or 4 cups), shredded

3 potatoes, peeled and cubed

30 ml (2 tbsp) granulated sugar

30 ml (2 tbsp) dill seed (placed in a spice ball)

30 ml (2 tbsp) pickling spice (placed in a spice ball)

30 ml (2 tbsp) fresh parsley, leaves and stems, chopped

2 x 796 ml (28 oz) cans tomatoes

2 x 284 ml (10 oz) cans condensed tomato soup

Ketchup to taste

 

Place soup beef in a very large pot with enough water to cover. Simmer for 2-3 hours. Chill overnight and then skim off the fat. Remove meat and liquid from the pot, leaving the scum on the bottom of the pot. Wash the soup pot (this is the secret to getting a great soup). Return meat and liquid to clean pot. Add onions, cabbage, potatoes, sugar, spices (in a spice ball) and parsley. Simmer until vegetables are tender. Add tomatoes, tomato soup and ketchup, to taste. Heat through and serve with sour cream.

 

Tester's notes: This is a hearty soup with a really good flavour. Not a classic beet borscht, this is a cabbage and potato version that gets its red colour from tomatoes. I ended up not adding any ketchup at all, getting the perfect amount of sweetness with the condensed soup. This recipe makes a huge quantity, so unless you're feeding a crowd or putting some in the freezer, you might want to make half.

 

Khatta-Meetha Kaddu

30 ml (2 tbsp) oil

1 bay leaf

2.5 cm (1 inch) cinnamon stick

6 green cardamom pods

6 whole cloves

5 ml (1 tsp) paanch phoran or whole cumin or fennel seeds (see notes)

2 medium potatoes, diced

500 g (1 lb) pumpkin, peeled and diced (about 1 l or 4 cups) (see notes)

5 ml (1 tsp) chili powder

7 ml (1 1/2 tsp) ground coriander

1 ml (1/4 tsp) turmeric

2 ml (1/2 tsp) salt

10 ml (2 tsp) sugar

15 ml (1 tbsp) tamarind pulp (see notes)

45 ml (3 tbsp) water

 

Heat oil over medium heat, add bay leaf, cinnamon, cardamom pods, cloves and paanch phoran or cumin or fennel and fry for 30 seconds. Add potatoes and fry for 4 minutes. Add pumpkin. Stir together and fry for 3 minutes. Add the chili powder, coriander, turmeric, salt and sugar and stir well. Add the tamarind and water. Gently stir. Cover and cook over gentle heat for 10 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Check to make sure mixture is not sticking or burning. Serves 4 generously.

Tester's notes: The pumpkin and potatoes get a real kick from these beautiful spices. The really big pumpkins used for Halloween decorations are edible, but they tend to be stringy. You'll want to use a smaller baking pumpkin, sometimes labelled a sugar or pie pumpkin. Use a good knife and be careful when peeling and chopping the pumpkin, as the shell can be quite hard. I had to cook my mixture a little longer than 10 minutes to get a texture that was tender but not mushy.

Paanch phoran is a mixture of fennel seed, cumin, mustard seed, nigella and fenugreek. Margaret finds its taste a little too licorice-y, so she just uses cumin. I used fennel seed. I couldn't find tamarind pulp, but used tamarind paste, which is thinner in consistency but has the same sweet-tart taste.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 30, 2013 D5

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