By Ruth Friedlander and Armeda Hammonds.

In these days of easy convenience and twenty four hour supermarkets the sheer options of produce available can be at times overwhelming. Seasonal fruit and vegetables can be difficult to decipher in the produce section of your local Safeway, where in the middle of winter you can find a perfectly round and bright red, yet tasteless tomato that has been in cold storage since it was picked (unripe) from the vine. Not to mention fruit and vegetables that have spent hours in transit traveling from far away shores just to satisfy our need for constantly available produce.

In light of all these options eating seasonally may seem like a difficult and restrictive task, but the reward of enjoying the first of the seasons vine ripened tomatoes far outweighs any challenges, and there are a range of easy options, such as seasonal fruit and veggie boxes, which take away the drama of navigating the lacquered aisles of the supermarket produce section.

In fact, being limited by variety and season makes a weekly vegetable box a fabulous excuse to delve into some new recipes or create seasonal varieties of old favorites. Having the internet at your finger tips will provide you with a wealth of information on any unknown arrivals, from nutritional analysis to cooking tips. It also can be a chance to rediscover vegetables previously overlooked due to childhood aversions or bad dinner party experiences. For me the dreaded boiled cauliflower (or dolli bowler, as I apparently called it) from my own childhood was enough to have me sworn off for life. Little did I know its delicate earthy flavor can be a revelation in a velvety smooth soup or Moroccan spiced couscous salad. If not for its inclusion in a weekly winter veggie box, along with the ever growing guilt of having it languish at the back of the fridge each week, only to end up soft and limp in the compost, cauliflowers would still be on my list of things to avoid. Its these rekindled food relationships that keeps the joy of cooking fresh, along with the knowledge that the quality of in season, local produce will almost always make for a better tasting meal.

So why not celebrate the last few lingering pumpkins of the season with this lightly spiced pumpkin soup, jazzed up a bit with the inclusion of a pumpkin seed and coriander pesto. It’s perfect for a quick and tasty meal on one of these few remaining, unseasonably cool spring evenings.

Pumpkin Soup with Coriander Pesto

1 tbsp oil

1 onion, diced

2 garlic cloves, minced

pinch dried chilli flakes

1/2 tsp ground coriander seed

1/2 tsp ground cumin seed

3 C chopped pumpkin

2 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped

4 C vegetable stock

Coriander pesto (see recipe below) and unsweetened natural yoghurt, to serve.

Heat oil in a large pot over a medium heat. Add onion and garlic and cook until onion is translucent. Add spices and cook for a further 2 minutes. Add pumpkin, potato and stock and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes. Remove from heat and using a stick blender or by transferring in batches to a food processor, blend until smooth. Return to heat season well with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

Divide among serving bowls and drizzle over pesto and yoghurt.

Coriander Pesto

1 C fresh coriander leaves

1/4 C pumpkin seeds

1 garlic clove, sliced

2 tbsp lemon juice

1 tbsp grated

1/4 C olive oil

Place all ingredients except for olive oil into a food processor and blend until a thick chunky paste is formed. With the motor running pour in a thin stream of olive oil and blend until just combined. Season to taste with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. If pesto is too thick to drizzle, loosen it up with a bit of extra lemon juice, water or olive oil.


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