Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Soup - and the Pumpkin conspiracy

OK it's official, Autumn is here.

Yes, there have been some misty mornings, yes there are apples a-plenty, yes, the spiders are on the march, and we've had the first fire in the log burner, but what has really heralded the arrival of Autumn is the first bowl of pumpkin soup. 

Truth be told, pumpkin soup is something I am a little ambivalent about it. In less forgiving moments, I start to wonder if pumpkin is actually one of the biggest food cons there is. Unlike other squash which can taste sweet, nutty and delicious, pumpkin promises much but doesn't always deliver flavour-wise. For a vegetable that produces quite an unctuous, smooth soup, it can sometimes taste quite thin, and alot of the recipes for pumpkin seems to basically involve using the pumpkin as bulk, flavoured with other things. My preferred treatment of pumpkin when it comes to soup involves ginger and chilli, to the extent that any pumpkin flavour that may or may not be there is pretty much hidden. You see what I mean?

This weekend, I decided to take Nigel Slater's approach, and use smoked paprika.

You should also know that I have a vested interest in finding the best ways of cooking up pumpkin. As a result of a pumpkin growing contest that we held here, with the kids, we now have over 50 pounds of the stuff to work my way through.

Yes, 14, 16 and 21 pounds respectivaly, with another 21 pounder already in the kitchen. I need pumpkin inspiration... 

Yes, I can chutney, yes I can pie, and I'm going to donate a pumpkin curry for 10 to the Harvest Festival supper (Lucky people. Sadly, I will be otherwise engaged...), but even with those options up my sleeve. I still can't avoid soup.

I have to say that the recipe I used didn't really give me the pumpkin epiphany I was hoping for, but it was OK as pumpkin soups go. However, in a moment of inspiration, I toasted some walnuts with some rosemary sprigs and sea salt, and sprinkled this on top. It was also very tasty with some blue cheese crumbled into it for lunch today. That's the thing about making a vat of pumpkin soup - there's lots left over. Not necessarily something to be completely excited about, but it'll keep you fed for a few days, and it does look quite pleasing.

So here you go then. 

Pumpkin soup (alright as far as pumpkin soup goes)
Serves many

2 red onions
2 large cloves of garlic
2 heaped tsp smoked paprika
1.8kg chopped peeled and deseeded pumpkin flesh
800ml chicken stock
a good handful of walnut halves
a couple of sprigs of rosemary
a good pinch of sea salt

In a very large soup making pan, melt some butter and olive oil and fry the onions and garlic till softening. Add in 1 heaped tsp smoked paprika, stir in and cook for a minute or so. Add the pumpkin and carry on cooking, stirring occasionally, until the pumpkin is looking softened and a little caramelised.

Pour in the stock and bring to the boil, then simmer till the pumpkin is cooked.

While the soup is simmering, heat the oven to 180/200C. Roughly chop the walnut pieces and take the rosemary spikes off the twigs. Give the rosemary a bot of a chop if you can be bothered. Chuck the walnuts, rosemary leaves and salt into a small roasting tin and into the oven for 5-10 minutes, till toasty and aromatic, then set aside to cool down a little while you finish the soup. I used the oven because it was already on for something else. You could do this in a dry frying pan on the stove top too.

Finish the soup by tasting and adding in the 2nd teaspoon of smoked paprika, then blitzing as you like (hand held blender etc). Thin out if necessary using milk (or perhaps some cream) - but bear in mind that if it's thin on flavour, you don't want the soup to be too thin in teture too. Taste and add seasoning if needed.

Serve with the rosemary walnut pieces sprinkled on the top, and some really decent bread.


  1. I think sometimes pumpkins can be a little on the bland side and a good roasting (ohh err) is a great way to bring out the flavours, saying that yours looks very velvety and rich x

    1. I know it looks quite rich but it was still missing something. The walnuts and the blue cheese definitely added something to it. I know what you mean about a good roasting - I usually do. Next time...

  2. this is what I LOVE about autumn!
    Mary x

  3. I know what you mean but I swear by cooking the chunks in butter first and adding chilli is always good. Or, roast it for the soup in olive oil and salt then blend it down, chuck the seeds in to roast too if you can face getting them out of the stringy stuff. Or just carve the buggers and stick a tea light in them...

    1. I'll do the butter and chilli thing next time - sounds good. We're away over Halloween this year though - the big Italy trip - so no pumpkin lanterns for us this year...

  4. I know exactly what you mean. Pumpkins can be quite hit and miss, and I find myself using tiny Hokkaidos and butternuts more. But when a pumpkin soup is good, it's really really good, and this one looks just that! :)


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