I made this soup with ingredients I bought at a local organic farm. This is a big deal for Cyprus. I recently spoke of this organic farm, which I couldn’t stop gushing about because it’s such a wonderful thing to see Cyprus finally starting to place emphasis on healthy organic produce. I hope this isn’t going to sound too controversial, but from what I observe, it is almost as though Cyprus is in the same stage that North America was in the 1980s in terms of the selection and quality of grocery food items. The grocery store aisles are stocked with cereals, ready-to-eat-granola bars, fruit bars, juices form concentrate, chips, and the fruits are large, shiny, and perfect …
But what’s been forgotten is locally grown food without the use of pesticides, grown on a small scale, available for sale or even for one’s own consumption. If you look at the prices in the big grocery stores, you will see that some locally grown fruit and vegetables are more expensive that those imported from literally half way across the world. It’s bizarre. I think it must have something to do with the lack of water in Cyprus and perhaps all the middle men that makes one feel as though they are buying Gucci grapefruits. But it’s not right – in my opinion.And then, when you actually go to the farmer’s markets themselves the prices are drastically different – fruit and vegetables at the farmers’ markets are much cheaper. And when you can go to an ORGANIC market, where the produce has literally been chopped an hour before you arrive and you know that the produce hasn’t been showered in pesticides, and the prices are just right, I simply don’t know why you would shop anywhere else for the fruits and vegetables you can buy from the farm. When my friends Maria and her husband Peter decided to move back to Cyprus from the US and start their organic farm, I was thrilled. I am 100% behind them. Good for them. Cyprus needs this kind of vision and sustainable ventures. And I am wishing them every success. You can follow them along on their facebook page here, and their website here. They are currently selling some wonderful produce, but what I fell in love with this week were the kale and carrots I spotted, as well as Maria’s beautiful wild flower bouquets she prepared so effortlessly. I brought my carrots and kale home and spent the first day photographing them. Then the next day, I made a lovely butternut squash, carrot and tart apple soup complete with halloumi and chive as garnish. I also made a kale salad. For those in Cyprus who have not used kale before, you have to ensure that you chop and dress the kale properly, so that it is not tough or chewy, but this is easy – you simply cut out the stem and then let the kale sit in the dressing a bit longer than the other salad ingredients. Kale tends to be a bit on the bitter side, so I paired it with a sweet dressing. But I think I may have overdone it with the sugared walnuts. I think next time I would add toasted pumpkin seeds to the salad so that it doesn’t become too sweet. The dressing below is a sweet one, and although it’s a really good one, for those reading who don’t like sweet, this probably isn’t the dressing recipe for you. The soup however is in my opinion is creamy, flavourful and super easy to make, and it would be hard for anyone to dislike it – unless they have a certain aversion to soups or squash! It makes for a great lunch with some toasted bread. I am looking forward to watching Maria & Peter grow their farm. I hope I will have more wonderful recipes to share using their delicious produce in future. And I really hope that anyone reading will pay them a visit too.
WHAT: Parhelia – An Organic Farm in Limassol WHERE: In Polemedia, near the “Orphanides” Round About, click here for directions WHEN: Saturday 9:00 – 13:00 FURTHER INFORMATION: See Parhelia’s website here
Butternut Squash Soup with Carrot, Ginger, Sour Apple and Halloumi
1 small yellow onion, chopped
1 small celery rib, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
1 clove of garlic
2 tbs butter
1 very small butternut squash, peeled and chopped, seeds discarded
1/3 of a tart green apple, peeled, cored, chopped (squash and apple ratio should be 3:1)
3 cups chicken stock
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp grated fresh ginger
salt & pepper
fried cubed halloumi & freshly chopped chives as garnish
1. Chop the butternut squash into large pieces, place on a baking sheet and roast the same for 15 minutes at 175C until the squash becomes a little soft. When roasting, place the pieces on their side – flesh side down – drizzle with a little olive oil and season to taste with salt & pepper. Remove and let cool. Once cool, remove any seeds and the tough outer skin and chop into small pieces.
2. In a medium sized pot, add the butter on medium-high heat. Once the butter begins to crackle, add the onions, garlic, celery and carrot. Stir fry for about 5 minutes until the vegetables turn translucent and become soft – turning down the heat if the vegetables begin to burn.
3. Add the squash, apple, ginger and chicken stock to the pot. Simmer for about 30 minutes, until the flavours come out and the squash and carrot become soft. Add the nutmeg. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
4. Let cool a bit, then add soup to your blender and blend until smooth. Garnish with fried halloumi cubes and freshly chopped chives.
I followed this recipe for the kale salad, and made a few modifications. I added halloumi instead of pecorino, and I used bacon instead of pancetta. I really loved the dressing, but I thought the addition of the caramelised pecans made it a bit too sweet for my taste!