Our neighbor Caroline gave me one of her garden pumpkins and I immediately thought of Haitian pumpkin soup, joumou.
Whenever I think of joumou, I also think of Colonel Jean Claude Paul. Colonel Paul was a corrupt military strong man, heavily involved in the illicit drug trade during the Manigat/Namphy political upheavals in Haiti. While Colonel Paul sided with Henri Namphy against Leslie Manigat during the June 1988 coup d’etat, he was never really a partisan, but a drug money rich, independent individual, feared by both the population and the government because of the loyalty of his salary enhanced troops. Untouchable he thought.
Normally, the death of a man like Colonel Paul wouldn’t have deserved a footnote in Haiti’s turbulent and violent history of hundreds of greedy, selfish men just like him. However Colonel Paul, to the everlasting hilarity of the Haitian people, died while enjoying a poisoned bowl of his favorite dish, Soupe Joumou. After the laughter died down, his death spawned numerous anecdotes and jokes entitled “Colonel Soupe”, earning Jean Claude Paul a better place in Haitian memory than he could have created for himself.
The preparation of this soup is a bit fiddly. The pumpkin has to be roasted first, then pureed. There are lots of vegetables to chop but you can always draft a family member as a “coupe oignon” to help with this if you don’t have a food processor. Make it on a heavy snow day and they’ll have nothing to do with themselves :D
For some reason, Weiss supermarket was only selling Angus beef products. It wasn’t on sale or anything but that’s all they had. Over drinks at Leunes’, a farmer told us that the beef they are calling Angus is most times just black cow and doesn’t always have anything to do with the breed. I believe that, convinced by the mediocrity of these “Angus” beef cubes that exuded a large amount of water when I was browning them. This is not the first time we have been less than satisfied with Weiss products. Remember those black eyed peas? We also found jam that had expired early last year and 8lbs of potatoes that were advertised as 10lbs on sale.
This is the first time I’ve shopped in a Weiss store, so I don’t know if it’s the management of this particular store or the entire chain. In any case, they’re dead to me now :D
1 largish pumpkin, peeled, seeded and cut into wedges
2 tbsp olive oil
2 lbs beef, cubed, seasoned with salt and pepper
1 large onion, chopped
3 celery stalks, chopped
5 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tsp dried thyme
5 whole cloves
3 Maggi bouillon cubes
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
Water to cover, 2 inches above ingredients, plus 4 cups
2 large potatoes, cubed
2 mirliton, peeled, seeded and cubed
1/4 cabbage, chopped
2 turnips, cubed
3 carrots, diced
2 leeks, chopped
1 tbsp parsley, chopped
1 scotch bonnet, halved
1 cup broken spaghetti
Roast the pumpkin wedges in a 350 F oven for 45 minutes, then remove the skin from the pulp and puree. Set aside.
In a skillet, brown the meat cubes in the olive oil, remove and place inside a large stock pot. Add the onion, celery and garlic to the skillet and saute until tender, then add to the meat in the stock pot with the thyme, cloves, bouillon cubes, salt, pepper and water. Bring to a boil and simmer for 1 hour.
Add the reserved pumpkin puree, potatoes, mirliton, cabbage, turnips, carrots, leeks, parsley and scotch bonnet to the pot, bring to a boil and simmer for 30-40 minutes. Add the spaghetti and continue to cook until the spaghetti is done.