In France, there is no Halloween apart from among expatriates. Perhaps the Celts in Brittany celebrated the evening of Oct 31 as the start of the year but in the rest of France the catholic church has decreed Nov. 1 as All Saints’ day (Toussaint) and even the non-religious enjoy a day off, this year even an extended weekend break.
Many French people will visit cemeteries and put flowers and plants on the graves of their families. If you want to visit a French churchyard, do it the day after and they will be nicely spruced up.
The supermarkets and markets are full with potted plants for the occasion.
Other seasonal guests are the pumpkin (potimarron) and chestnuts and with the temperature falling, these combine nicely in a creamy soup.
Potimarron rhymes with the French word for cooked chestnut, marron, and that has a historic reason. The original Pumpkins came from Japan and were named courge chataigne for their appearance (courge as in zucchini and chataigne from chestnut).
Here, I make an all-vegetable version with leek, onion, celery and a carrot as well as the pumpkin and chestnuts. You can add cubes of bacon or ham, cream or other ingredients. In fact, a second day I added cauliflower because I happened to have it in the larder and we were going to go away for a long weekend.
- A decent slice of pumpkin (250 grammes)
- A large winter carrot
- Half a celery stick
- One onion
- Two leeks
- 250 grammes of chestnuts
- Mixed herbs (bouquet garni)
- Salt and pepper
- Put an incision on the top of the chestnuts, put them in boiling water and cook for five minutes, then drain and let cool. Some people insist on a cross-wise incision, but this takes more effort for not much more gain.
- Peel the chestnuts.
- Peel the pumpkin and slice in parts.
- Peel the carrot and cut in parts.
- Peel the celery and cut up.
- Remove the green from the leeks, wash, take off the outer white skin and cut into rings.
- Take a large pan, put the vegetables and chestnuts in and cover with water (two to three litres) add the herbs, salt and pepper, bring to the boil, turn down the heat and simmer for 45 minutes.
- After this time, taste for salt and pepper and correct if needed.
- Take out the herbs. Let the soup cool down.
- With a plunger blender, turn the vegetables into a creamy substance.
- Reheat before serving.
- When using ham, bacon or cream, add this at the last moment. If you do use pork, you can add a pork’s foot, knee, ears or trotter at the start and take it out before the blending.